Change is necessary, inevitable and irreversible

observations by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Charlie Dooley


Yesterday, Gov. Jay Nixon briefed you on the state’s and the region’s public safety preparations. Charlie and I talked afterwards, and we agreed that is there is more that needs to be said.

Neither of us knows what the grand jury is going to find. Neither of us knows what will happen after the finding is announced.

But we can tell you that both city government and county governments are working together to prepare for whatever is to come: we are going to keep people and their homes safe, always. We are going to protect the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters, whenever. We are going to move our region forward, regardless.

Tomorrow, you will hear more from Chief Belmar and Chief Dotson. They are well prepared. Preparation includes training their men and women, and discussing tactics. It also includes listening to the protesters, agreeing where they can on their requests, and keeping open the lines of communication to prevent misunderstandings.

I have directed Chief Dotson to make it part of his mission to protect the constitutional rights of the protesters, to give them some leeway where he can to occupy public spaces, if that is their choice.

I have also told him that his first job is to keep all of our citizens safe, and to prevent violence or looting. Violence is not constitutionally protected. Damaging property is not constitutionally protected. The department will do everything it can to prevent it.

I have a great deal of confidence in Chief Dotson and the men and women of his department. They deserve our support. They certainly have mine.

Regardless of the grand jury’s decision, regardless of any public reaction, life in St. Louis will go on. Most of my focus has been on how different that life will be.

How do we make St. Louis a more just place for everyone? How do we build trust between our police departments and all of the citizens they serve? How do we address the concentrated poverty that is at the center of all of this?

We’ve begun some important conversations, and made some important starts. Already, we are going to expand our summer jobs program for at risk youth, and have dismissed arrest warrants for thousands of our residents who missed their court dates for minor traffic offenses. We are also working with the governor and our Congressional delegation on an initiative to put 3,000 out of school and unemployed people to work. We are partnering with our African American police officers to recruit more African American officers. And, we are close to a compromise on creating a Civilian Oversight Board to improve our police department.

Charlie and I believe it is important that our constituents — all of them — know that we are going to keep them safe during the demonstrations. It is also important for our constituents to know that we will get through this. And, that we are already laying the groundwork for being a different and better region.

And that this change is necessary, inevitable, and irreversible.


Calm down, take a few breaths and don’t buy into the hysteria. That is what we must do. Tensions and emotions are running high, but we will get through this. We have some challenging days ahead of us, we know that but the main reason we are here is to tell everybody to just take a deep breath.

The images and reports that our region is preparing for war are unfortunate. What you don’t see are the images of people from all walks of life working together to ensure peaceful protests and work on long-term solutions. Those make up the majority of people.

Rumors on social media, leaks from the Grand Jury and relentless media attention are inflaming tensions and creating hysteria, and we all need to be more responsible in what and how we communicate. Our expectation is that people will exercise their rights and raise their voices in a legal, constructive, manner. Law enforcement is prepared to deal with the few who are intent on doing otherwise.

Our region is at a crossroads. But I believe we as a community will deal with this situation the way we always have—by working together over time. Our strength is our people. I am encouraged by the dialogue with protesters and those who just want to make things better. That’s where our focus needs to be in the long run. I believe the majority of people are focused on that.

We have already begun to see tangible progress: police are making changes, courts are making changes, we are looking at longer-term projects. The bottom line is this: The grand jury’s decision is going to be whatever it is going to be. The issue is, regardless of the grand jury decision, what do we want for our community?

So we are asking everyone to calm down, don’t buy into the hysteria and instead channel that energy into building something positive.