- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The St. Louis police chief vented online Monday about the city’s judges, saying he believes they are too lenient in cases involving gun crimes and insisting presiding jurists “are accountable to virtually no one.”

Chief Sam Dotson - in a blog post Monday titled “A Sane Rant for a Crazy System: Part I” - wrote that “when you combine a runaway gun culture with a lack of judicial accountability, it seems like anything is possible.”

Dotson cited the case of an 18-year-old who on Feb. 13 was charged with unlawful use of a weapon and resisting arrest. Online court records show that suspect’s bond initially was set at $30,000 but was reduced four days later to $10,000, and he was freed with the stipulation he be monitored with a tracking bracelet.

Casting that 18-year-old as a “proven threat to public safety” and with ties to gang activity, Dotson said that defendant later violated terms of his bail and on May 22 was a passenger in a car involved in a fatal wreck. Inside the car the defendant occupied, Dotson wrote, police found two stolen assault rifles and a .45-caliber pistol with a defaced serial number in the car.

The 18-year-old since has been charged with possessing the defaced weapon, a misdemeanor. His bond on that was set at $2,500 cash only.

“I wonder what will our illustrious judges give him for that?” Dotson wrote. “Time served plus community service? Plead him down to a fine for unlicensed metalworking? No television for a week, and this time we mean it?”

A message left Monday by The Associated Press on the cellphone of the defendant’s attorney was not immediately returned. A message also was left with the St. Louis court system’s presiding judge, Bryan Hettenback, whom Dotson mentioned by name in his blog.

“Judges are accountable to virtually no one,” Dotson wrote. “They make the decisions and we get stuck living with the consequences. And no matter how bad those decisions turn out to be, they hold on to their jobs and their power.”

Dotson added that another societal truth is that “guns are ridiculously easy to get.”

“To win the long battle against crime and violence in America, we probably need to see both of those facts change. But at the moment, I’d gladly settle for modest progress with either,” Dotson wrote.

“Because the arrangement we have right now is crazy enough that sometimes I think we couldn’t do worse if we just put a gun shop right outside the justice center and left the doors open at night,” he added. “And if that idea sounds shocking to you . well, now you know how I feel.”

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