A Call for More Police Accountability

The shooting death of an unarmed teenager in North County this weekend has shocked St. Louis and brought attention from around the country and around the world. There has been a pit in my stomach since hearing of the death of Michael Brown and the subsequent response, which last night included rioting and looting by people who have no investment in the community they performed those heinous acts in. But it is not to give the violent minority more attention that I write this; it is to make whatever small contribution I can to an ongoing conversation about police and the communities they serve. 

Below is a letter I have drafted for St. Louis City Mayor Francis Slay. I am a city resident and not a constituent of St. Louis County or Ferguson. But these issues touch the entire St. Louis region and I wished to contact my personal representatives. I am mailing similar copies to St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson and my Alderman, Stephen Conway.

If you are interested, you are more than welcome to use this letter in whole or part to contact your own representatives. Some relevant contact information is below the letter. 

My thoughts are with the community members who are truly affected by this. Remember that we are privileged to live in a society based on democratic representation. However imperfect, this system of government does allow our voices to be heard. Be sure to speak loudly and clearly. 

Dear Mayor Slay,

A young man named Michael Brown lost his life in Ferguson this weekend. This tragedy—and any loss of such a young life can only be considered as such—has highlighted tensions between communities and their police departments and put St. Louis on the nation’s map for the worst of reasons. I am writing to you not only to express my sadness at this death but also to call for measures that could prevent more violence and lead to swifter justice when police do use force, whether justified or unjustified.

In the twenty-first century, eyewitness accounts are increasingly being supported by audio and video recordings of events. As the technology improves, the feasibility of video recording increases as the cost plummets. Initial experiments, such as in Rialto, California, show that body worn cameras can reduce the use of force and help officers avoid unfounded complaints. Police forces like the LAPD and civil rights groups like the ACLU support the testing and use of these cameras to calm tense situations, increase mutual respect between police and their communities, and of course to provide evidence in the event of a criminal investigation or loss of life. I am calling for the St. Louis police force to assess, test, and ultimately adopt body worn camera technology.  

As a city, as a community, we condemn the violence that outshone peaceful protests this weekend. The relatively few individuals who participated in such behavior must not be given even a modicum of support.

But the wider community of Ferguson, of St. Louis, deserves answers about the shooting of an unarmed teenager. If official cameras recorded the events on Saturday, answers could be quicker to come and justice could be had more swiftly. More significantly, a culture of accountability could have prevented excessive, deadly force. New initiatives will not restore a life that was taken, but could improve our community in the future. I urge you to take action now.


Eric Hamilton,
Constituent of Ward 8,
St. Louis, MO

Edit: A petition for something quite similar. Not my own.

Mayor Francis Slay
1200 Market , City Hall, Room 200
St. Louis, Missouri 63103
(314) 622-3201

Police Chief Sam Dotson
1200 Clark Ave
St. Louis, Missouri, 63103
Internal Affairs: (314) 444-5652

Ward 8 Alderman Stephen Conway
City Hall, Room 230
1200 Market Street
St. Louis, Missouri 63103
(314) 622-3287

Charlie Dooley
41 South Central Avenue,
Clayton, MO 63105
(314) 615-7016

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar
7900 Forsyth Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63105
(314) 615-4260

Ferguson City Council
James Knowles, MayorCity Council
110 Church Street
Ferguson, MO 63135
(314) 524-5152

Ferguson Police Department
222 S. Florissant Road
Ferguson, MO 63135
(314) 522-3100