St. Louis' soaring homicide numbers and climbing rate of other crimes have left police commanders scrambling for solutions and pointing fingers, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Police Chief Sam Dotson posted a blog entry complaining that a judge's leniency several years ago set the stage for a murder. Capt. Michael Sack, who heads the police crimes against persons division, says he is “frustrated” that prosecutors are issuing homicide charges in fewer than half of the cases his detectives present.
The chief renewed his call for the St. Louis Circuit Court to establish an “armed offender docket,” using specified judges to focus on gun possession cases that can be a precursor to more violence. He cited Rashad Edwards, who was charged July 2 with first-degree murder. In 2010, Edwards, then 17, was charged with unlawful use of a weapon, which carries a maximum of four years in prison. Judge Margaret Neill put him on probation. “A man might still be alive if Rashad Edwards hadn't drawn a judge who put him on probation,” Dotson said. The chief offered the special docket as a “fix” that would “allow closer monitoring of outcomes, more accountability and, ultimately, safer neighborhoods.” Court spokesman Thom Gross called the proposal an “unconstitutional punishment court.” He said judges debated the idea two years ago and rejected the idea for “constitutional and practical reasons.”