Years of watching career criminals slip through the cracks finally got to Sam Dotson. The chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police took to his blog to rant about how River City handles violent crimes.
"Today, I feel it's my duty not to remain calm and composed," Dotson writes. "Today, I feel anger and have every right to shove professionalism aside."
In a post titled "The Sad Truth That I Wish Was Fiction: Another Chief's Rant," Dotson shares a story about a career criminal arrested and imprisoned for violent gun crimes three times in six years. The man only served three years in jail -- a slap on the wrist -- and problems with witnesses meant prosecutors couldn't charge him with a 2012 drive-by shooting, Dotson writes.
Unsurprisingly, Dotson says, the man was arrested again recently, this time on suspicion of unlawfully possessing and using a weapon. The judge released him on bail. "That means all it took to get him out and put him back on the street was $500!" Dotson writes.
Only when the man disrespected the court system by failing to appear for his hearing did the judge step up and assign him a $40,000 cash-only bond.
"Don't even get me started on the terrible message it sends. Actually, do get me started," Dotson writes. "The message sent appears to be: if you repeatedly commit violent crimes, the courts might just let you out for $500 cash bond. But if you do something serious, like make a judge angry by not showing up in court, THEN they might FINALLY get touch and set your bail at $40,000." (Emphasis original.)
Dotson called this approach to gun crime "upside-down."
"Who were his accomplices in the commission of this crime?" Dotson says. "Only the usual suspects: complacency and bureaucracy in the courts, lack of accountability in sentencing and setting bail, lack of effective tools like a 'gun docket' dedicated to dealing with this kind of violent crime."
The story is hardly novel or surprising, Dotson says, but it should be.
"I don't understand how anyone can hear a story like this without wanting to reform the way we handle gun crimes," he says.