Late last month, during a meeting of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, a shoving match broke out among members of the public — some of them off-duty police officers.

The cause of the tension was a proposal to create a new civilian oversight authority for the police. Advocates of police reform like civilian oversight, but police officers say the boards are often politicized and unfair to them.

The concept of civilian police oversight isn’t new. In 1965, New York Mayor John Lindsay proposed including civilians on a review board as a way to address complaints from minority groups about police misconduct. But the move backfired; the police union and conservatives such as William F. Buckley rallied against civilian oversight, and voters later defeated the idea in a city-wide vote, returning the the board to police only. It took more than two decades for civilian oversight of police to be restored in New York.

The idea fared better in other cities. In Kansas City, Mo., the Office of Community Complaints was the brainchild of a personal injury lawyer named Sid Willens. He says his eyes were opened to the problem of police accountability in 1965, when he tried to get justice for a client who’d been badly beaten while handcuffed. Willens says the police department’s internal investigation simply confirmed the officer’s version of what happened. “It’s like having the fox guard the chicken house,” Willens says.

Police Are Learning To Accept Civilian Oversight, But Distrust Lingers

Photo caption: Late last month, a scuffle cut short a St. Louis Board of Aldermen meeting where a committee was to discuss a proposed civilian review board for the city’s police force. Photo credit: Robert Cohen/Courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Four years ago, in endorsing Democrat Barack Obama for president, we noted his intellect, his temperament and equanimity under pressure. He was unproven, but we found him to be presidential, in all that that word implies.

In that, we have not been disappointed. This is a serious man. And now he is a proven leader. He has earned a second term.

Mr. Obama sees an America where the common good is as important as the individual good. That is the vision on which the nation was founded. It is the vision that has seen America through its darkest days and illuminated its best days. It is the vision that underlies the president’s greatest achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Twenty years from now, it will be hard to find anyone who remembers being opposed to Obamacare.”

He continues to steer the nation through the most perilous economic challenges since the Great Depression. Those who complain that unemployment remains high, or that economic growth is too slow, either do not understand the scope of the catastrophe imposed upon the nation by Wall Street and its enablers, or they are lying about it.

To expect Barack Obama to have repaired, in four years, what took 30 years to undermine, is simply absurd. He might have gotten further had he not been saddled with an opposition party, funded by plutocrats, that sneers at the word compromise. But even if Mr. Obama had had Franklin Roosevelt’s majorities, the economy would still be in peril.

Extraordinary, perhaps existential, economic challenges lie just beyond Election Day. The nation’s $16 trillion debt must be addressed, but in ways that do not endanger the sick and elderly, or further erode the middle class or drive the poor deeper into penury.

The social Darwinist solutions put forward by Republican Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, are not worthy of this nation’s history, except that part of it known as the Gilded Age.

Mr. Obama has not been everything we expected. In his first weeks in office, Democrats ran amokwith part of his economic stimulus package. His mortgage relief program was insufficient. Together with his Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, the president has been too deferential to the financial industry. The president should have moved to nationalize troubled banks instead of structuring the bailout to their benefit. Regulatory agencies and the Justice Department were unable to bring financial crooks to heel.

We had hoped that Mr. Obama would staff the executive branch with the best and the brightest. There have been stars, but there have been egregious failures, too. The "Fast and Furious"operation at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was a disgrace. The vastly expensive and unaccountable intelligence and Homeland Security agencies need stronger oversight. The now-renamed Minerals Management Service could have used some best-and-brightest inspectors before the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

People who don’t understand the word ‘socialist” accuse Mr. Obama of being one. But as president he has proven to be pragmatic and conciliatory. He is not one to tilt at windmills. He did not close Guantanamo. He cut deals with anyone who’d come to the table. In health care, banking regulation and most other policy areas, he has practiced the art of the possible.

In foreign policy, after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for doing little more than not being George W. Bush, he has been a centrist. He has stood with Israel, but not as its surrogate. He brought the last of the U.S. troops out of Iraq. He began to wind down the war in Afghanistan — too slowly in our view. He let the nations of the Arab Spring follow their own course to democracy. He used thumb drives instead of bunker busters in Iran.

Against the advice of his senior advisers, he approved the SEAL mission that killed Osama bin Laden. He has been almost ruthless in his pursuit of terrorists, reserving to himself the right to approve targets. Regretfully, he massaged ”due process” to allow himself to assassinate an al-Qaida leader who was an American citizen.

As to Mr. Romney, we are puzzled. Which Mitt Romney are we talking about? The one who said of himself, in 2002, “I’m not a partisan Republican. I’m someone who is moderate and … my views are progressive.”

Or is it the Mitt Romney who posed as a 'severely conservative" primary candidate? Is it the Mitt Romney who supported abortion rights and public health care subsidies in Massachusetts or the one who is pro-life and anti-Obamacare now?

Is it the Mitt Romney who wants to cut taxes by $5 trillion or the one who can’t remember saying that now? Is it the Mitt Romney who said in May that 47 percent of Americans are moochers or the one who said last week that’s not what he believes?

Mr. Romney apparently will say anything that will help him win an election. As a president, he might well govern as a pragmatic chief executive, or he might sell himself to the plutocrats and the crazies who have taken over his party. He is asking Americans to take a lot on faith — there’s nothing to see in his tax returns; he can cut taxes and whack away debt while trimming deductions he will not specify.

Mr. Romney’s business career is the only way to judge his foundational beliefs: He did not run a company that built things and created jobs and strong communities. He became fabulously wealthy by loading up companies with tax-deductible debt, taking millions out up front along with big management fees. Some companies were saved. Others went bankrupt. Mr. Romney’s firm always got out before the bills came due, either in lost jobs, bankruptcies or both.

If the nation’s most pressing issue is debt, why elect a president whose entire business career was based on loading up companies with debt?

In picking Mr. Ryan as his running mate, Mr. Romney signaled that he’s ready to perpetuate that model in public office. The middle class hasn’t had a raise in 20 years. Income inequality has reached record heights. Mr. Romney is the very embodiment of what’s gone wrong with the economy: Too many people at the top create vast wealth that they do not share, either by creating jobs or by paying fair tax rates.


I Thank You.

Huffington Post, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, MSNBC, Roland Martin, Michael Baisden, St. Louis local reporters, The St. Louis American, Mother Jones, ( Anonymous) and RFT are just some of the media that I am thanking for covering and fighting for the right of the press to continue to speak and report what’s going on.

If you listened to the media reports this past week, it would appear that evidence had come forward to exonerate Officer Darren Wilson in the death of teen Michael Brown in August. It began when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an article titled “Official autopsy shows Michael Brown had close-range wound to his hand, marijuana in system” and quickly propagated throughout the net. If you read it, or the articles based on it, the impression was that the coroner who handled the autopsy had found that Michael Brown had attempted to grab Officer Wilson’s gun, and in so doing the officer was justified in the use of force which resulted in Michael’s death. They even included quotes from a forensics expert, Dr, Judy Melinek, which appeared to indicate familiarity with the case, and justification of the teens untimely death.

Problem is, the autopsy report says nothing of the sort.

Instead, the story as put down in the report damns Officer Wilson. In the report, the evidence fit with Officer Wilson having unholstered his weapon and discharge it, still in the car, against an unarmed teen. It did find that Michael Brown had been exposed to cannabis at least 24 hours earlier, based on his blood and urine toxicology. The amount found, 12 nanograms of delta-9-thc in his blood along with over 150 nanograms of 11-Nor-Delta-9-THC-cooh, at his BMI of over 34, denoted someone who had smoked two cannabis blunts the day before, and at least 4 more over the prior week. Not exactly someone who was a hard core drug offender. But it was above the point of impairment for driving. Thankfully, Michael Brown was walking that day.

Now, many news sites ran with the claim that Michael Brown reached for officer Wilson’s gun. But the autopsy report tells a very different story. The only shot which indicated it was close to Officer Wilson, by having a powder burn or residue, was a burn on the inside of Michael Brown’s thumb, along with a bullet graze, which ran straight down the inside, across his thumbprint. Visualize just a moment, a bullet, in close proximity, so close that it could burn your thumb just below the knuckle, with the bullet heading straight out, away from the hand. A bullet coming out of a barrel likely touching the thumb at the knuckle joint, based on the description.

A thumb attached to a hand which had to be underneath the gun, pushing it upward, for the bullet to travel along that path.

That is not a hand placement for reaching into a car to grab a gun at all. That is not a hand position for wrestling a gun away from someone. That is a hand placement for pushing an already drawn sidearm up and out-of-the-way – a defensive move as someone is attempting to level it at you in order to kill you. It is unknown if Michael Brown had taken any self-defense classes, but this is a valid defensive response when ones life is in danger – to defend against the aggressor as best they can. This means however that Officer Wilson had drawn his sidearm against an unarmed teen before the situation had escalated, something also mentioned directly in the autopsy report. This would imply that Officer Wilson purposefully and willfully engaged with Michael Brown, with the result that the 18-year-old lost his life.

Every other injury to Michael Brown lacked any trace of firearm residue, meaning that they all happened at distance – away from the vehicle. The defenders of Darren Wilson therefore are defending the officers rights to engage in murder, so long as they can come up with a justification post-mortem.

As for the forensics expert, turned out that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had completely misrepresented her in their piece. On “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell” Dr. Melinek blasted the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for their complete misrepresentation of her statements and went on the record with her findings based on the autopsy report.

At this time, no apology from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch over their gross misrepresentation of the statements given has been released, and it is quite probable that none will be. As for Officer Wilson, he now has even more to explain, such as why he was aiming a loaded firearm at an unarmed teenager through his patrol car window. There is no plausible explanation for such an action that anyone is yet aware of. It is now on Officer Wilson to explain his actions that afternoon in August.

H/T: Nathaniel Downs at Addicting Info 


Berhe Beyent, the manager of Shaw Market near the scene where an off-duty St. Louis Police officer shot and killed Vonderrit Myers Jr., said Myers came in the store and bought a turkey sandwich and a soda about 10 minutes before the shooting.

Beyent said he knew the young man and did not believe he had a gun at the time, and said it did not fit his personality, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He also released surveillance footage that shows Myers bought a sandwich and shows no evidence of a gun.

The officer who killed Myers shot 17 times.

Whenever a journalist is accused of an ethical violation, I am there for him. Or her.

Perhaps it’s because I have been accused of so many such violations myself, or maybe I just have an old-school view of this business, but the bottom line is I am unashamedly sympathetic to any journalist accused of an ethical lapse. If you are such a journalist and you lose me, you’ve lost the room.

Bad news for KSDK. They’ve lost me.

According to a story this newspaper published Friday, KSDK was preparing a story on school safety. A reporter went to Kirkwood High School on Thursday. He walked in unimpeded.

He asked directions to the office. He asked to speak with somebody from security. The secretary said the school resource officer was not in the office. She took the name and phone number of the visitor, who did not identify himself as a reporter. Administrators became alarmed when the visitor asked for the location of a restroom but headed in another direction.

Administrators called the number he had left with the secretary. He did not answer the phone, but the message identified him as a reporter with KSDK. Administrators then called KSDK, but the station refused to confirm or deny the person worked for the station. Even when the administrators said they would have to put the school on lockdown if the visitor’s identity remained unknown, the station wouldn’t budge.

So the school went on lockdown. That means police were called. Students and teachers huddled fearfully in classrooms.

What was the purpose of letting the school think a gunman might be hiding somewhere in the school? Let’s even take it one step further back. Why didn’t the reporter just check in with the office, identify himself as a reporter and announce he was doing a story on school security? The station isn’t saying. Whatever the reason, the lockdown made a big splash, which, come to think of it, might have been the reason.

If so, it worked. Even I watched KSDK at 10 p.m. Thursday.

Nobody explained the reason for forcing the school to go on lockdown. Instead, we got this sanctimonious statement: “NewsChannel 5 will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our schools and your children therein.”

I wanted to shout at the screen. “We don’t want you sneaking around our schools. Just give us news, weather and sports. If you want to scare the bejesus out of kids, scare your own.”

Besides, exactly what was the report going to prove? That Kirkwood High School isn’t being operated like some kind of prison?

Let me tell you what school had really good security — Sandy Hook Elementary. Doors were locked at 9:30 a.m. Visitors were admitted only after a visual review via a video monitor. Identification was required. KSDK would have approved. But guess what? Adam Lanza shot his way through a glass panel next to the door.

Columbine had a deputy sheriff assigned to the school as a full-time armed school resource officer. That didn’t stop Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They were students.

The notion that we can make schools — or any place — completely safe is false. Even having armed people around doesn’t guarantee anything. One of our worst mass shootings was at an Army base. And, locally, of course, we had the horrific shooting at Kirkwood City Hall. The first two victims were armed police officers.

Kirkwood. That makes this stunt from KSDK even more appalling. Did anybody at that station think about that? Or do they just not care?

These are perilous times. Bad things happen. I suppose a television station can play on our fears. It’s probably good for ratings. They can send reporters sneaking around and then point out security lapses. Next week, they’ll probably take a gun into the zoo. That could really gin up some fright. “Your children aren’t even safe at the zoo!”

That seems to be where society is headed. Certainly, the government does what it can to send us the message: “Be very afraid.” After all, if we’re afraid, we’re more willing to give the government increased authority. We must surrender a little freedom for security. Only a powerful government can protect us. Maybe there is even some truth to that.

But we need a television station to protect us? Really?

“NewsChannel 5 will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our schools and your children therein.”

I think the people at KSDK ought to be very grateful that it is not against the law to be sanctimonious. If it were, they’d be looking at some heavy time.

h/t: Bill McClellan at

No one liked game day more than Bryan Burwell. He loved the camaraderie of the press box, the ebb and flow of that day’s athletic event, and the labor of love in bringing that event to life for Post-Dispatch readers.

Burwell, a longtime sports columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, died early Thursday (Dec. 4, 2014) after a short battle with cancer. He was 59.

It was Burwell’s desire to keep his illness private. He had hoped to keep working as long as he could and didn’t want people feeling sorry for him. He fought cancer like he lived life and wrote columns, with vigor, an upbeat attitude, and even a smile on his face.

Burwell joined the Post-Dispatch in 2002 after working as a sports correspondent for HBO’s “Inside the NFL.” During his long sports career, Burwell also wrote columns for USA Today, The Detroit News, and worked at the New York Daily News and New York Newsday.

Burwell also worked in radio and television, co-hosting an afternoon radio show in St. Louis on CBS Sports Radio 920. He was a regular on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters” television show. Besides HBO and ESPN, he also once did work for Turner Sports.

In 2011, he wrote a book on longtime Raiders coach and football analyst John Madden, entitled: “Madden: A Biography.”

He pioneered video production at the Post-Dispatch with a studio built for his video blog, Upon Further Review, at the Post’s main office in downtown St. Louis.

With such a diverse and well-traveled background, Burwell knew a lot of people in the business, and the reaction to his passing Thursday was swift and heartfelt.

Among them, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King perhaps best summed up Burwell’s love of his job in describing a trip he made to Rams training camp this summer.

"Here’s a guy that’s 59, closing in on retirement and the end of his career, and you couldn’t believe how excited he was because that day he’s gonna interview Ethan Westbrooks," King recalled. "Not Michael Sam. Not Sam Bradford. He’s interviewing the 41st guy on the roster, and he’s carrying around this little video thing (camera) and all excited.

"It says that he loved stories. He loved telling a good story. And he could adapt and adjust to our business, the changes in our business. … There’s such a great lesson in his verve and his excitement of doing his job."

Burwell had a great sense of humor, and a booming laugh. Former Seahawks beat writer Danny O’Neil, now a radio talk show host in Seattle, described his favorite memory of Burwell this morning on Twitter (@dannyoneil):

"After 7-9 #Seahawks beat 7-9 #Rams to make the playoffs (Bryan said): "Should we just apologize to the country for this?"

Burwell loved the pureness of sport and athletic competition. The plight of the underdog and the swagger of the superstar. But he didn’t shy away from issues, be it steroid use in baseball or racism in sports. He wrote strong opinion and when called for, could be strongly critical. And he could break stories. The last column he wrote for the Post-Dispatch, on Oct. 14, broke the news of plans underway for a new football stadium on the north edge of downtown.

"Bryan was on top of his job at all times," said Roger Hensley, assistant managing editor/sports at the Post-Dispatch. “And even moreso than that, if you ever needed help on anything — from a small feature on a local high school kid to a column on the Rams dome situation — nothing was too big or too small for Bryan. He delivered good stories, human stories, to our readers.

"It sounds corny, but I would describe him as sweet and kind and generous. He was the opposite of the curmudgeonly old journalist. He was a kid, and doing sports journalism was a candy store for him.

"And you could talk to any of our guys who cover our beats — the Cardinals, Rams, Blues, Mizzou, SLU — and they would all tell you Bryan Burwell was the best teammate you could ever have."

A former hurdler at Virginia State, he loved track and field, college sports, basketball. And, oh, did he love covering football.

Burwell’s columns and feature stories were honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has also won awards from the Associated Press, United Press International, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Professional Basketball Writers Association, and the Pro Football Writers Association.

When Burwell joined the Post-Dispatch in 2002, Sports Editor Larry Starks wrote: “Burwell has an excellent record of writing strong, opinionated, insightful columns. We know sports in St. Louis are so important to so many of you that we’re thrilled that we can provide a strong voice in Burwell and Bernie Miklasz.”

Burwell is survived by his wife, Dawn, and a daughter, Victoria.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Reactions from around the country to Bryan Burwell’s death

Sign an online guest book for Bryan Burwell

Here is our original report on the death of Bryan Burwell:

Bryan Burwell, a longtime sports columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, died early Thursday (Dec. 4, 2014) after a short battle with cancer. He was 59.

Burwell joined the Post-Dispatch in 2002 after working as a sports correspondent for HBO’s “Inside the NFL.”

During his long sports career, Burwell also wrote columns for USA today, The Detroit News and worked at the New York Daily News and New York Newsday.

His columns and feature stories were honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors, and won awards from the Associated Press, United Press International, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Professional Football Writers Association.

The APSE named Burwell one of the top 10 sports columnists in the country in 2007. In 2013, his ground-breaking “Upon Further Review” video columns were recognized by Editor and Publisher in its Eppy Awards.

When Burwell joined the Post-Dispatch in 2002, Sports Editor Larry Starks wrote, “Burwell has an excellent track record of writing strong, opinionated, insightful columns. We know sports in St. Louis are so important to so many of you that we’re thrilled that we can provide two strong voices in Burwell and Bernie Miklasz.”

In his first column at the Post-Dispatch, Burwell wrote about his return to sportswriting after six years away.

"I left the sports writing business and became a full-time, pampered, TV talking head. But even as the voice got deeper, the suits got fancier, the expense account just a little heftier, and the hotels and plane tickets went five-star and first-class, deep down inside, I was still just another ink-stained wretch looking for a free meal and another game to cover," he wrote.

He detailed big events he covered, including Michael Jordan’s comeback and sprinter Ben Johnson’s expulsion from the Seoul Olympics after a positive drug test. 

He wrote in that inaugural column he wanted his first one to be “just” a column. “But the folks who sign my checks suggested I introduce myself to you, because, I was told repeatedly, St. Louis sports fans were different.”

Burwell said he hoped to make readers laugh, cry or think. 

Sports Editor Roger Hensley said, “Bryan Burwell was one of the most well-respected sports columnists, not only in St. Louis, but in the nation. His work in sports video was truly innovative.

"But as great as Bryan was as a journalist, he was even better as teammate, as a co-worker and as a friend."

Tributes to Burwell lit up Twitter as the news spread. St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long said “He was a really good dude. He was always a true professional, always upbeat. “

Rams executive vice president Kevin Demoff tweeted, “Profoundly saddened by the passing of Bryan Burwell. His ability to find humor and optimism in life was surpassed only by his love of sports.”

Audio: Frank Cusamano on the death of Bryan Burwell

h/t: Jim Thomas at St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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#BryanBurwell, #NewspaperColumnist, #RogerHensley, #StLouisPostDispatch

Sports columnist Bryan Burwell dies at 59


Columnist Bryun Burwell Dies At 59 ST. Looey — Award-a’winnin columnist Bryun Burwell o’t’ St. Looey Post-Dispatch diet Thirsdee aft’r a shert battle wit canc’r. He wuz 59. T’ newspap’r made t’announcement un its website, Sperts editer Rog’r Hensley sed n’ a statement at…

Scary. And that would generally describe Shelby Miller’s imposing performance in Saturday’s early start against the San Francisco Giants.

Working the visitors over during the Cardinals’ 8-0 victory in the first of two scheduled games at Busch Stadium, Miller pitched seven shutout innings, struck out seven, and added to the growing collection of exceptional showings from the Cardinals’ freshmen arms.

Through 11 starts, Miller is 6-3 with a 1.82 ERA. As of Saturday afternoon that ERA ranked second in the NL to the 1.71 ERA sculpted by Arizona’s Patrick Corbin.

And who is to say that Miller is the finest of the St. Louis fledglings? He’s done the most so far, but Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons aren’t exactly, say, Mike Busby and Rigo Beltran.

By the way, that isn’t a shot at Miller. He’s the real deal, and one of the most exciting young talents to arrive in St. Louis in any professional sport in many years. But what does it say about the quality of the rookie hurlers when we can’t state, conclusively, that Miller will go on to have the best career?

And top pitching prospect Carlos Martinez isn’t even in the rotation yet; that day is coming. Wait until Baby Pedro signs in.