I want to begin by being clear that I hear you.
I read my Twitter mentions and my Facebook posts, I’ve been reading your emails and your texts, listening to your voicemails, reviewing the hashtags. I’ve watched and listened to the non-violent protests in the streets. I’ve seen destruction of property. I’ve read the articles showing up in my feed and my Google alerts. I’ve seen the videos. We are a city of perspectives and passions, this remains true.
I want to address two themes I have seen.
The first theme is that of violence, destruction and intimidation. Three of four days we saw peaceful protests during the day, with demonstrators — supported by law enforcement — taking streets and intersections. After it gets dark, things change. I’ve said before that destruction of property and violence toward others will not be tolerated. For agitators or those who fail to follow police orders, this may mean arrest. But I also want to be clear that intimidation is not conduct that lives up to the standard of behavior expected by City police officers or any City employee.
I want to assure all citizens that complaints of misconduct that have been made are being reviewed by the Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division. Our officers are working long hours under tense and sometimes hostile situations, for that I again thank them. Tense and hostile situations are what they are trained for, and as public servants we are rightly held to the highest professional standards. I expect, as does Chief O’Toole, that the men and women who dutifully serve and protect our city will conduct themselves professionally.
The other theme is that of action. It is clear to me that what we are seeing and feeling is not only about this case. And I am also clear that the root cause of this is not protesters, nor really police. What we have is a legacy of policies that disproportionately impact people along racial and economic lines. This is not an opinion, this is supported by stacks of numbers. This is institutional racism.
We, here in St. Louis, are once again ground zero for the frustration and anger at our shared legacy of these disproportional outcomes. And once again, we hold the opportunity to lead the way in making concrete changes to our laws and policies to change the Status Quo.
The issues brought forth by the demonstrations are valid and challenging. The Ferguson Commission report provides good recommendations for addressing some of the issues. We have been working to expedite some existing plans to increase equity, as well as developing some new ones. We will have more details as they become available.
I understand that I now sit in a seat that is accountable for some of the needed change. I understand that I will face people who do not agree that these changes are a priority. I understand that I will need collaboration and cooperation from other elected officials.
I also understand that the only option is to move forward. Not because of the protests, not because of the Stockley case, but because it is past time. Because it is necessary for St. Louis to grow and thrive. Because it’s my job.
After much consideration, we are postponing our Town Halls for this week because they are happening in the streets and in my inbox and on social media right now. We are listening.
I hear you.