Call me simple, but I always assumed it was the job of a public safety director to figure out ways to prevent people from dying rather than to explain away deaths by saying some people are asking for it, though it is entirely possible I misunderstand the role. In St. Louis, Missouri, where 13 children have been fatally shot since April, the job of public safety director seems to include going on the radio and blaming kids for the gun violence that killed them.
On October 3, St. Louis’s public safety director, Jimmie Edwards went on the radio and expressed this opinion out loud:
“It is important that our children do not engage in risky behaviors. I’ve been very careful not to talk about the children this summer. Many of the kids unfortunately violently killed were teenagers engaging in criminal behaviors themselves,” Edwards said.
Some risky behaviors included attending a block party, where a three-year-old was shot while eating pizza, and playing in an alley like the seven-year-old who was murdered while hanging out with his sister. At a recent aldermanic committee meeting, Edwards clarified that definitely meant that only the teenagers invited death by their own actions:
“Edwards said a 15-year-old was found dead one morning ‘with an automatic weapon on his person with an extended ammunition magazine, $5,000 in cash and a large quantity of drugs.’ He said a 16-year-old shooting victim was on the police department’s carjacking offender list and was apparently shot in the crossfire of a gun battle between two other 16-year-olds.”In the radio interview, he added, “when children are put in positive situations, we have positive results. When they engage in criminal behaviors, unfortunately, we end up with 13 children dead.”
He also mentioned that two of the victims are believed to have shot themselves, though it is unclear if he believes that fact precludes them from being counted toward the running total. If only there were some sort of department dedicated to, say, public safety that could be responsible for creating positive situations in order to give children some recourse besides guns and crime.
Naturally, citizens of St. Louis, the murder capital of America since 2014, would rather the city take some action to correct the societal and systemic problems that lead to the shooting deaths of 13 children rather than blame the children. However, St. Louis’s mayoral chief of staff says that, normally, Edwards is real good with kids:
“Jimmie has an incredible reputation of working with juveniles within the justice system and within our community,” Conway said. “His track record of improving children’s lives in St Louis is unmatched by anyone.”
I know if I was a child who had to do crime in order to afford food and shelter, I would certainly want my life improved by a person who believed that was a me problem.