Arnold, Missouri Police Department Expands Patrols & Training in 2017

City of Arnold Police Chief Robert Shockey

“Crime constantly changes, and we change with it.” — Police Chief Robert Shockey

Arnold, Missouri, in Jefferson County 25 miles southwest of St. Louis, has 22,000 residents and a violent crime rate that statistically is 73% lower than Missouri’s average and 64% lower than the national average.

Yet the Arnold Police Department is expanding training for its 49 officers and increasing firearms practice for every officer while boosting patrols in residential and retail areas.

“Crime is constantly changing and our department is changing to help keep crime under control, no matter what the incident,” says Police Chief Robert Shockey, Jr., a 29-year veteran of the department.

2016 was noteworthy for the city and the police department. It began with disastrous Meramec River flooding that kept much of the city under water for a week, swamping 295 local homes, plus parks, streets and businesses, and temporarily shutting down two interstate highways.

Arnold’s violent crime rate stayed low until November 4 when two police officers were ambushed by a resident who shot and wounded both officers in the face and upper body with a .12 gauge shotgun.

The shooter was apprehended and charged with eight felony counts. Wounded Officers Jason Gorenstein and John Palme both later recovered.

Chief Shockey says, “That incident was a terrible reminder that police work can be a deadly job.”

“We’ve had no incidents like that since 1976 when one of our officers was shot and killed while investigating a forced break-in.”

Even so, the department is modifying its law enforcement procedures in 2017 for several reasons.

Criminal Activity

“Violent crime has not come to Arnold in a major way but it is increasing in larger cities across the United States, including homicides,” says Shockey.

“Hundreds of citizens and scores of police officers were shot and killed in 2016 across America. St. Louis has the highest murder rate, per capita, of any city in the country with 188 homicides in both 2016 and 2015.

“Many schools nationwide have been terrorized by gunmen causing violent deaths, injuries and forcing security lockdowns.”

“Today there are more guns on the streets in every city, including Arnold, and criminals are more flagrant than ever before — frequently they don’t care who they shoot, what they steal or what property they damage.”

Recent data from Harvard University and Northwestern University reveals that America’s gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than those in comparable nations. Handguns accounted for six out of ten guns acquired in the U.S. over the last five years. Some 600,000 guns — about one per minute — are stolen every year. Stolen guns are usually stolen by criminals.

Chief Shockey says, “Like many small cities in Missouri, we do not anticipate a major boost in violent crime in Arnold in 2017. Yet the Arnold Police Department is working harder to minimize any criminal activity — from assault and robbery, to theft at homes and businesses, to illegal narcotics activity, school lockdown situations and potential terrorist acts.”

“Our police department is becoming more proactive and less reactive. Our public safety priorities are resident safety, safety in schools, crimes against businesses and potential terrorist acts,” he asserts.

Rotating Patrols

Starting in January, the Arnold Police department implemented a new patrol schedule by enhancing its current 12-hour shifts. Some patrol shifts will overlap to address what Chief Shockey calls “prime time for crime — 10 a.m. to about 2 a.m.”

The Arnold Police Department’s Business Resource Program, in which patrol officers visit retail businesses to consult with managers, in-house security officials, loss prevention employees and to talk with customers, has been expanded from two to four armed police officers.

“Our data shows that crime at retail locations in Arnold and in other cities has been on the increase — ranging from ‘smash and grab’ of small items, theft of larger items and in-store shoplifting,” says Chief Shockey.

“Interstate highway access to the City of Arnold via nearby exits and on-ramps contributes to retail-related crime because its gives lawbreakers who live outside our city easy on-easy off ways to reach stores and then try to quickly escape,” he says.

“We expect that doubling the size of our Business Resource program and expanding surveillance will reduce this type of criminal activity in 2017 and beyond.”

In late 2016 two, new highly-trained police dogs joined the Arnold Police Department’s award-winning K-9 Unit to replace two older dogs; the K-9 Unit has always had three trained dogs since it was founded in 1995.

They patrol every day with their police officer handlers in marked police cars with a warning sign that says, “Caution: Police K-9.” They apprehend fleeing criminals, sniff out illegal drugs, detect hidden explosives, track lost children and find senior citizens who’ve wandered away from home.

Sampson, one of three highly trained police dogs in the Arnold Police Department.

One of Arnold’s police dogs, a German Shepherd named Sampson, snuffed out a potential terrorist act when he discovered 50 pounds of black powder hidden in a vehicle pulled over for a traffic stop. All three dogs in the K-9 unit are skilled at tracking — “like bloodhounds” says Arnold Police Lieutenant Brian Carroll, K-9 Unit supervisor — and at apprehending lawbreakers on the run.

“Instead of risking officer safety in some situations, we can turn the dogs on criminals — once they see a canine running after them, nine times out of ten the criminal gives up on the spot,” says Lieutenant Carroll.

Firearms Training

Traditionally, Arnold police officers have participated in daytime and nighttime firearms training and target practice sessions four times a year to refresh their shooting skills at pistol ranges with their Sig Sauer .40 caliber semi-automatic pistols issued by the department.

In 2017, the Arnold Police Department is introducing what Chief Shockey describes as “more realistic training” specifically designed to address crisis situations at schools, theatres, retail stores, businesses and terrorist events.

“Our police officers will be introduced to a new type of pro-active armed response training for these potential scenarios, and related safety precautions, which reflect what many police departments are dealing with in America today,” Chief Shockey says.

“In Arnold we do not have the high levels of violent crime, armed robberies and homicides like they do in St. Louis and Chicago. It’s our job to make sure that those trends don’t take hold here. In 2016, we experienced a few — very few — homicides in our city. They were domestic-related and they were solved quickly by our department.”

“Those few incidents were not gang-related or narcotics-related homicides because the rowdy and violent gangs have moved out of Arnold. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Arnold was known as a ‘tough town’ and there were a couple of motorcycle gangs that caused a lot of trouble.”

“At the same time the Arnold police department was known by the bad guys as a tough police force. We got tougher and that is reflected today in our low rate of homicide, low rate of armed robbery and low rate of violent crime.”

Arnold is considered a major target for potential terrorist acts because it is home to a National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) facility on more than 34 acres. The federal government facility captures and delivers geospatial intelligence to policymakers, military operations, intelligence professionals and first responders. It opened in 1998 by consolidating operations from St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Bethesda, Maryland.

“NGA has its own internal police department and we have worked with them,” Chief Shockey says. “After the September 11 World Trade Center disaster we developed an anti-terrorism plan — I can’t reveal any details except that we update our anti-terrorism plans every two years, and that our officers are well-trained.”

Chief Shockey was appointed Arnold’s police chief on September 11, 2001. He joined the department in 1988 after serving five years with the City of Manchester Police Department. In Arnold he served in progressively responsible roles including Commander of Criminal Investigations until named chief. Chief Shockey is a third generation police officer following in his family’s history. Police work is in his blood.

“We live in a very different world today than when I entered law enforcement,” says Shockey, who is a Past President of the Missouri Police Chiefs Association.

“Fighting crime is a never-ending battle for law enforcement agencies. Small cities need to be just as vigilant as larger cities with their policies, procedures, methods and equipment updates.

“Arnold police officers have been equipped with body cameras for three years. These video cameras help our officers stay out of trouble rather than get into trouble. If we get a complaint from a suspect that has been arrested, 99 percent of the time the video will prove that our officers were in the right.

“And now we have a drone — two of our officers will be trained to operate it for collecting evidence and for officer safety for search warrants. It also will be used to help locate missing persons that may have gotten lost in wooded areas.”

“Sure, it’s true we sometimes make mistakes. Yet we quickly address them and learn from them — that’s part of becoming a better police department.”

Story by Jeff Dunlap, a writer based in St. Louis.