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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
“Let’s talk and listen,” were the words that got the attention of Kurt Frisz, Chief of the St. Charles County (Missouri) Police Department (SCCPD) on June 11, 2020. He was in the middle of a crowd marching to protest the death of George Floyd and racial inequality, showing his support, when he saw those words on the back of one of the marchers.
“I responded to the slogan on his t-shirt, and started talking to him. He was a very pleasant young man, and we had a good, earnest discussion about police and racial relations.”
The march was planned to proceed from Dardenne Prairie, a county town that the SCCPD patrols, to Lake St. Louis and back. Realizing that the organizers were new to managing protest events, Chief Frisz and Chris DiGiuseppi, Chief of the Lake St. Louis Police Department (LSLPD), helped them with planning, even lending the organizers a bullhorn to exhort the marchers to stay on course.
“We were fully supportive and open to their suggestions,” said Frisz, “but asked that the marchers be respectful and chant nothing disparaging about police, just keep to their message, protesting the deaths of George Floyd and other Black men.”
“Police from both departments, ours and LSLPD, joined the marchers,” he added. “We and the organizers both saw this as a collaborative event, protestors with police. And, from what we heard, people on the sidelines were clapping and honking horns in support of this collaboration as well as the Black Lives Matter movement.”
Collaboration is an ongoing activity for the SCCPD, a police department headquartered in O’Fallon, Missouri, about 30 miles from St. Louis. A medium sized department, it serves approximately 396,000 residents and businesses in the 587 square miles of the unincorporated areas of St. Charles County.
In addition to policing these areas, SCCPD provides contracted police services to six county towns, as well as full time patrol services to two others. The department also assists St. Charles City, Wentzville, and other municipal police departments, as well as the St. Charles County Sheriff’s Office. They also work with fire and EMS services and provide specialized and supplemental services, including crime scene investigation and the Metro Air Support Unit, to all first responders who request it.
Communication is another ongoing activity of the department. Said Frisz, “Community engagement is the foundation of our department’s culture and we do a lot of outreach. So it was quite normal to talk to everybody we could the day of the protest march.”
In fact, SCCPD literally walks the walk and talks the talk with the people they serve. “We schedule several walk and talks throughout year. After choosing a neighborhood, we use social media, the Nextdoor app, and homeowner associations to announce that we will be out on the streets to talk to anybody who would like to have a conversation,” he says.
“It’s a popular program and we learn a lot. Mostly about nuisance problems, parking issues, dogs running loose, things that people feel they shouldn’t bother us about. We say, ‘call us if you want help or have questions. That’s what we’re here for.’”
“But we also get important information, on drug dealing, for instance. People might say there’s a suspicious amount of traffic at a particular location. We then ask them to jot down license plate numbers and allow us to see their Ring camera footage,” he adds.
The department has also begun talking to the community digitally, too, through live broadcast “lunch and learns” in which a SCCPD officer discusses hot topics with another official. The first one, a discussion with a prosecuting attorney, focused on child abuse and human trafficking. The next one will focus on financial scams perpetrated by callers posing as officials from social security or other organizations. These talks, which are moderated by a local TV station, can be seen on the SCCPD’s Facebook page and on YouTube.
But the SCCPD is as noteworthy for its police work as for its community outreach, both of which have somewhat unusual characteristics.
One example is their Criminal Investigations Division, which includes a six-member, all-civilian crime scene investigation (CSI) team. The division recently solved the murder of a young mother in the St. Charles County town of St. Peters.
Using good old-fashioned detective work and technology-based sleuthing connected to her text messages, the detectives found a suspect who otherwise would not have been associated with the victim. The all-civilian CSI unit picked up a blood sample at the scene, providing the DNA evidence essential to identifying the suspect and linking him to the murder.
“It’s a little unusual that our CSI unit is all civilians, not commissioned police officers,” commented Frisz. “But this is part of what makes them so valuable to the department.
“In addition to not having to deal with the distractions of police work, they are not subject to transfers or looking for promotions. So they stay on the job. These civilians chose the CSI unit as their career, and dedicate themselves to it.”
After 14 months as chief, Frisz speaks highly of the department and its members, as well as the role of county police chief. “I especially like it because it’s county-wide policing,” he says. “We’re involved in more regional, federal, and local law enforcement issues and activities. And it’s less political than it would be in a municipal setting.”
Reflecting on his experience during the march, Frisz says “It was very positive. We talked with the leaders at the end and asked to sit down with them later to have a discussion on how to move forward, emphasizing that we must all be transparent.”
Chief Frisz, Chief DiGiuseppi, and Paul West, Chief of the Wentzville Police Department, agreed that they had a very productive and enlightening meeting, and intend to have more—which could be an answer to the other words Frisz saw on the back of the protestor’s t-shirt: “Be the Change We Need.”
Faye C. Elkins
Sr. Technical Writer
All photos courtesy of the Jonesboro Police Department.
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