August 29, 2014

Role in Ferguson of new Public Safety chief not defined

Governor Jay Nixon’s (D) new nominee for Public Safety Director comes from the part of the state that has seen great turmoil in the past two weeks, but he and Nixon have shied away from discussing what he will bring to Ferguson.

Dan Isom speaks to the media after being introduced as the new Director of the Department of Public Safety.  (Photo credit:  Jessica Machetta)

Dan Isom speaks to the media after being introduced as the new Director of the Department of Public Safety. (Photo credit: Jessica Machetta)

Dan Isom is the former Chief of the nearby St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and has been announced as the new Department of Public Safety Director. Nixon touts Isom’s impressive resume as a law enforcement officer, well-educated about criminal justice.

Ferguson has been rocked by periods of rioting and looting in the past two weeks; violence carried out by some but not all of those protesting the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer. Perhaps nowhere in the state is public safety a more pressing concern, but neither Nixon nor Isom would talk specifically about what has happened, or will be happening, in Ferguson.

“First as I take on this role I plan to do a lot of listening and a lot of learning,” Isom told reporters as part of a prepared statement on Wednesday.

Nixon reminded reporters that the position’s responsibilities would be statewide.

“We could have a tornado in some town tomorrow and then that side of the equation would get going,” says Nixon. “I think the first relatively short period of time here, the chief’s focus will be on getting a good hold, both intellectually and operationally, of the department that he’s leading.”

Reporters asked Nixon about how Isom’s experience will help in Ferguson or how the new appointee might attack that issue, but the governor declined specifics.

He did give a nod to the urgency of the situation, however.

“I just think it’s a really, obviously, clearly an important time for seasoned leadership here,” says Nixon. “Cops on the beat and the citizens of the state, I think they’re going to be well-served by our new director.”

Isom’s is subject to approval by the state Senate.

Earlier story:  Gov. Nixon names former St. Louis Police Chief new Department of Public Safety Director

Gov. Nixon names former St. Louis Police Chief new Department of Public Safety director

Former St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom II has been named the director of the Department of Public Safety.

Dan Isom speaks to the media after being introduced as the new Director of the Department of Public Safety.  (Photo credit:  Jessica Machetta)

Dan Isom speaks to the media after being introduced as the new Director of the Department of Public Safety as Governor Jay Nixon listens. (Photo credit: Jessica Machetta)

Governor Jay Nixon (D) made the announcement Wednesday morning in St. Louis. Isom replaces Jerry Lee, who is retiring after three years in that position.

Since retiring in 2013 Isom has served as the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Policing and the Community for the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He joined the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in 1988 and was promoted through the ranks before being appointed Chief in 2008.

“As a professor and as a police officer I have dedicated my life to trying to find out better ways to make the community safe,” says Isom.

He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a master’s in public administration from Saint Louis University.

His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Missouri Senate.

The Department of Public Safety includes eight different agencies including two commissions, and six separate programs all committed to ensuring the safety of Missouri citizens.

Governor Nixon was reticent to discuss whether Isom has a plan in place to bring peace to Ferguson, which has been the site of protests and some riots since the shooting death of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer August 9. Nixon says the next few days will be spent getting Isom acquainted with what he calls a huge state department with priorities throughout Missouri.

Jessica Machetta, KTRS, contributed to this story.

Related story:  Role in Ferguson of new Public Safety chief not defined

Gov. Nixon doesn’t like release of surveillance video of Michael Brown

The Ferguson Police Department has been criticized by some for the release of a video and incident reports showing Michael Brown was a suspect in a strong-armed robbery that happened about 10 minutes before he was fatally shot by a Ferguson police officer.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appears on CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley.  (screencap courtesy; CNN)

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appears on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley. (screencap courtesy; CNN)

Governor Jay Nixon (D) said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press, he wasn’t happy about that release either.

“To attempt to, in essence, disparage the character of this victim in the middle of a process like this is not right. It’s just not right,” Nixon told host Andrea Mitchell. “Secondarily it did put the community and, quite frankly, the region and the nation on alert again.”

Nixon also expressed disagreement with the timing of the releases.

“We thought that it was not the right way to handle the victim’s family, which I had a chance to speak with. They were deeply troubled,” says Nixon.

A common question was why, after a week, more is not known about what happened when Brown was shot. On CNN’s State of the Union, Nixon says two investigations are ongoing.

“I talked just the other day to … had a long talk with (U.S. Attorney General Eric) Holder. Based on that they put 40 FBI agents working in St. Louis yesterday, in this region yesterday, to accelerate that process for that parallel investigation,” Nixon said. “I think it’s the time for the local prosecutor to have the opportunity to step up. I know everybody’s working really hard. It’s important that we get this right.”

Nixon had declared on Saturday a state of emergency and authorized the Highway Patrol to institute a curfew. Early Monday morning he issued an executive order calling out the National Guard to Ferguson after renewed violence his office called “coordinated.”

Amid criticism, Gov. Nixon to skip Fair and go to Ferguson where protests continue after Michael Brown’s death

Missouri’s Governor has cancelled his appearances at the State Fair in Sedalia and instead will be in North St. Louis on Thursday where violence continues after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer on Saturday.

Governor Jay Nixon (D)

Governor Jay Nixon (D)

Governor Jay Nixon (D) delivered remarks to community leaders on Tuesday and on Monday had requested an independent federal investigation of the shooting, but on Wednesday night was the subject of a barrage of criticism on social media for what critics called a lack of leadership.

Messages calling for Nixon to act were interspersed among reports of tear gas, rubber bullets and ear-piercing audio being used to disperse protesters, and that two reporters had been arrested while others were ordered by police to quit shooting video of protest scenes.

Critics, some of them political editorial writers and some others current or former politicians from both parties, accused Nixon of not showing the same leadership he had been credited with after Joplin was devastated by an EF-5 tornado in May, 2011. Others questioned whether a perceived lack of action could be a detriment to Nixon’s political future, which some have predicted could include a cabinet position or vice presidential bid.

State-Senator Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a black Democrat from University City, was more pointed, telling MSNBC Nixon, “doesn’t care about black people or the black community unless it’s politically expedient.”

Many seized upon Nixon’s last tweet before the situation in the St. Louis region escalated, that referred to his continuing effort to drum up support throughout the state for his vetoes of a series of bills to change Missouri tax policy.

Nixon Tweet 08-13-2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Critics claimed it was evidence of misplaced priorities.

Nixon’s office appeared to respond to the criticism by tweeting that he would not be at the Governor’s Ham Breakfast, a staple of the Fair schedule, as well as other events and appearances scheduled for Thursday in Sedalia.

A statement followed approximately an hour later:

“The worsening situation in Ferguson is deeply troubling, and does not represent who we are as Missourians or as Americans. While we all respect the solemn responsibility of our law enforcement officers to protect the public, we must also safeguard the rights of Missourians to peaceably assemble and the rights of the press to report on matters of public concern.

“I have been closely monitoring the situation and will continue to be in communication with local leaders, and I will be in north St. Louis County tomorrow. As Governor, I am committed to ensuring the pain of last weekend’s tragedy does not continue to be compounded by this ongoing crisis. Once again, I ask that members of the community demonstrate patience and calm while the investigation continues, and I urge law enforcement agencies to keep the peace and respect the rights of residents and the press during this difficult time.”

 

 

The Four: time for campaign reform (AuDIO)

Two Republican State Representatives who survived heavily-financed efforts to oust them from office last week think it’s time to reign in what they think are abuses in campaign finance.

Representatives Jeff Messenger of Republic and Lyle Rowland of Cedarcreek, both in southwest Missouri, were targets of retired financier Rex Sinquefield and his political action committee.  They and two others targeted for defeat in last Tuesday’s primary had refused to support a veto override on a tax break bill Sinquefield wanted to pass.

Messenger doesn’t appreciate the kind of campaign launched against him.  He says his people “didn’t want the type of politics coming out St. Louis in our district.”  And Rowland is even stronger, citing the old statement that   “figures don’t lie but liars figure.”   He says that’s what happened in the campaign he won last Tuesday.

Both, as the others, say they won because they stood up; to outsiders thinking they could buy their seats in the House.  Messenger says the campaigns emphasize the need for campaign finance reform, observing, “It’s not right for an organization to come out and try to sway an election, and that seems to be all based around how much money can be generated.”

And Rowland, who withstood a $130,000 campaign against him hopes for the same thing. “I am only hoping that.  I would support some type of reform because it is completely out of control,” he says.

The legislature has done a lot of talking about campaign finance and ethics legislation for years.  But its members have not been threatened as four of them were last week.

AUDIO: Messenger interview 12:45

AUDIO: Rowland interview 13:24