As an ex officio member of the Board of Police Commissioners, the state committee that oversees the St. Louis police department, I often receive reports from Chief Joe Mokwa about the activities of his officers.
One of the department’s most important anti-crime efforts is the Anti-Crime Task Force, a group of well-equipped, well-trained officers who give high crime areas their particular attention. Reading a memo about the task force’s work on a recent evening, I was struck by the fact that none of the people caught by the police during the commission of a crime was a stranger to the officers: all of them had long and recent records. In fact, the six people arrested that night had combined rap sheets of 30 prior arrests for various felonies and serious misdemeanors. The oldest arrested person was only 26.
The police are arresting the same people over and over again in the same neighborhoods. Until the rest of the criminal justice system is fixed, the police — and the people who live in those neighborhoods — are at a serious disadvantage.