The following is a brief speech that I wrote and gave before the St. Louis County Council on 26 September 2017. I wanted the Council and the community to think about how we came to that point at the Galleria. What are police supposed to be doing? Is it to go out looking for trouble? Is it to intimidate people exercising their rights (or even people who are bystanders)? —Emery Cox
I’ve been upset about several things, and I’m just a white suburban guy who wasn’t even at the Galleria this past weekend. I can only imagine how other people, and especially the victims of institutional racism, are feeling. We have heard from people who have far more knowledgeable and relevant comments than I do about the weekend’s events, and I don’t think that I can say anything unique about that.
So instead, I wanted to bring up a quote from the so-called Peelian Principles. Robert Peel was a civil servant and law enforcement theorist who wrote a code of ethics. One of his points was:
“The police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police are the only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the intent of the community welfare.” [emphasis mine]
The police are not a “side” in a “war.” Our police are ostensibly part of our community, so I think that we should ask ourselves what role we want the St. Louis County Police Department to have. I think that we should all take a step back and consider what Robert Peel’s statement implies.