Rookie St. Louis Cops Starting Careers on Foot Patrol

By Byers, Christine | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Rookie St. Louis Cops Starting Careers on Foot Patrol


Byers, Christine, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


ST. LOUIS * Pam Dischert leaned forward from the bench on her front porch and shouted to two police officers as they walked past her house in Dutchtown.

"Is everything OK?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am," replied Officer Robert Lammert, a 15-year veteran who walked beside rookie Officer Michael Cheli, 24, just days out of the police academy. "Just out walking the neighborhood."

A smile replaced the startled look on Dischert's face.

"It's good to see you walking the streets," she said.

But not everyone the officers encountered on Tuesday were as welcoming. Some ignored the pair. Some darted from sight.

Chief Sam Dotson considers all of those experiences valuable to fledgling officers like Cheli. So in a new approach to field training, fresh graduates will spend their first 28 days on the job walking beats under the close watch of a seasoned partner.

About 26 officers who graduated from the academy May 9 are assigned to neighborhoods selected for their crime rates, population and business density.

"People don't call us when they're having a good day," Dotson explained. "This is a chance to meet people when they are having a good day ... as well as remind the criminal element that we're in the neighborhood and if they don't behave, we're going to arrest you."

Research has shown that foot patrols en mass can reduce crime in densely populated areas, said Rick Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

"In St. Louis ... higher crime areas tend to be areas that are depopulated, in which officers would have to walk quite a distance to engage someone in conversation," Rosenfeld said.

But Dotson sees the strategy as a culture change for officers accustomed to policing mainly from cars, as technology has advanced and manpower has declined.

"Out of necessity, police officers got into the habit of going call-to-call and being driven by the radio," he said.

Requiring new officers to patrol on foot during their formative weeks will expose them to a technique they might not otherwise consider for use later on their own initiative, Dotson said. …

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