A report prepared for the police department by a downtown law firm says that some St. Louis police officers and the adult daughter of St. Louis police chief Joe Mokwa may have gotten good deals on used cars from a local parking company with a department contract to tow, impound, and sell cars.
No one seems to be saying that there was a connection between the car deals and the police contract. But, no one is denying that the chief’s daughter, who is married to a former police officer, benefited from one association or the other.
The story is troubling because it suggests - as did an earlier story about World Series tickets - that being a police officer (or being related to one) can get someone special benefits unavailable to other citizens or, even, to most police officers.
The report is troubling because it implies that Chief Mokwa reported his daughter’s involvement to the Police Board as soon as he knew it was happening - an implication which turns out to be inaccurate The report is also troubling because it asserts, without naming names, that serving members of the police department also participated in the practice.
As an ex officio member of the police board (and, thus, one of the police department’s five civilian bosses), I have been primarily concerned with the pressing issues of public safety and budget. On those two scores, I am generally satisfied with the department’s - and Chief Mokwa’s - performance.
I am not yet satisfied on the overall issue of departmental conduct, the important details of when exactly the department became aware of the practice, whether others besides the chief’s daughter did the same thing, and why the report seems to be wrong. These all raise questions which must be answered clearly and publicly.
Chief Mokwa says that he will address the issue in public tomorrow. I plan to withhold judgment and a decision on how to proceed until he has spoken. I think he has earned that much respect.
I support turning this matter over to United States Attorney Catherine Hanaway. In light of the clear shortcomings of the original report, that is a prudent decision.
We have to be able to trust the police. That is the cornerstone of public safety.