So Much to Be Thankful For in St. Louis
This Thanksgiving I find myself thankful for the people and the ideas that will hopefully bring us closer to the peace and prosperity we pray for every holiday. There are many people all over the area who have been working tirelessly to make their communities the best that they can be.
Tracy Panus, Media Relations Officer for the St. Louis County Police Department, spoke with me to address current worries about crime rates and the violence between the police and members of the public.
“[It's a] matter of respect going both ways. We’re trying to keep people safe. People are generally good. [There needs to be] a measure of respect that people are trying to go about their business,” said Panus.
According to Officer Panus, communication is a key element to law enforcement. She has spent time interacting with the public as an officer.
“Communication is one of the most important skills we have as police officers,” says Panus. “Most interactions are very brief, and people tend to make quick assessments of the police because of those interactions…that affects whether [they say something when they] see something that they should report. Our communication skills are essential to our job.”
Another initiative is the slate of reports compiled from law enforcement statistics on who officers stop and the results from those stops. The most recent reports, monitored by the Attorney General’s office, say that the number of stops has gone up overall from 2007-2008, from 1.5 million to 1.6 million, and the disparity index has grown for both African-American drivers and Hispanics.
Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe is working to end such disparities.
“In African American neighborhoods [crime's] looked at differently,” says Troupe. “When you look at the police department, it doesn’t reflect the community at large. The police have more power than [other institutions.] It’s all about taking care of the police. I have people that call the police and say that there is a drive-by shooting and the police don’t come. There are a lot of crooked cops and good police get killed. You can make a thousand arrests and not pass the test and not get a promotion and pass tests, and make one arrest and get the promotion.”
Charles Bryson, Director of the City of St. Louis Department of Public Safety, has been working with all levels of city government to address a good deal of these concerns.
“I am thankful for all city employees who work hard everyday sometimes under thankless conditions,” says Bryson. “They really are what make city government. We’ve handled a number of extremely successful events that have been recognized, nationally and internationally, like the All-Star Game. All city departments worked at some part of that, to make it successful. We handle big events every week.”
Daniel Isom, the new City of St. Louis Police Chief, is working to build on the successful measures of the past and search for new initiatives. The department plans to launch some of these initiatives in the coming months. The department is also continuing and expanding the police bike program, which was enacted to help the officers interact with and serve the public even better. Bikes allow the police to get to know the people within the neighborhoods they work in and respond more rapidly.
Community leaders have done other things this year to improve public health, safety and quality of life in the greater St. Louis Area. They have expanded the access to green spaces and farmers’ markets all over the area. Vegetarians, die-hard BBQers, and everyone in between can come to the table for Thanksgiving and celebrate organically and locally.
Thanks to many of our leaders we have health and health care as a topic of discussion, with major changes on the table. One of these leaders would be State Senator Rita Days, who serves the Ferguson/Jennings area and has made healthcare a priority for herself in state government this term.
I’m also thankful for Alderman Troupe’s efforts to improve housing options in the near-North County. The neighborhood has become a whole new experience.
And finally, I’m thankful for MetroLink, which has expanded to Webster and Clayton, and for the Galleria’s low-cost sushi!
There really is a lot to be thankful for.