School community remembers death of police sergeant
Last Halloween, University City police sergeant and Washington University alumnus Michael King was shot and killed in his police cruiser on the corner of Leland Avenue and Delmar Boulevard.
With the case pending in court one year later, students and administrators remain mindful of security on the Loop.
The University City Police Department has not increased its presence on the Delmar Loop since King’s death.
UCPD Chief Charles Adams said the department had already increased its presence of patrol officers on the Loop before King’s death, and it maintains these heightened levels today.
To improve security further, a pilot program began last April whereby the Washington University Police Department (WUPD) coordinates with the University City and St. Louis police departments to patrol the Loop.
Based on preliminary results, the joint patrol effort seems to be improving safety on the Loop.
“Looking at a snapshot of crime statistics from that area would suggest that it’s been a very positive thing to have operating there,” WUPD Chief Don Strom said. “The feedback we get from business people in the area has been extremely positive.”
Strom said the program was not started in direct response to King’s death.
“[It was] a terrible tragedy, but I think most people felt pretty safe in the Loop at the time, and I think they feel pretty safe today,” Strom said.
The joint patrol program began in response to a larger perceived need to keep all people who visit the Loop safe.
“It was more about wanting to maintain a certain type of quality of life for users of the Loop, and we felt by joint efforts we could do that,” Strom said. A goal of the joint patrol program is to maintain a “healthy and vibrant business district” on the Loop, Strom added.
Despite the shooting of King and other crimes that have occurred, students and administrators say they generally feel safe visiting the Loop.
Sophomore Emma Liss said she is not less likely to visit the Loop after hearing about violent crimes that occur there.
“I’ve never gone by myself,” Liss said, “[but] incidents like this happen everywhere.”
Assistant to the Chancellor Rob Wild echoed Liss’ sentiment on safety in the Loop.
“One of the great things about our campus is that we are in a vibrant, urban area,” Wild said. “As is the case with anytime you’re living in an urban area, you should take precautions. Don’t walk by yourself, make sure you have a cell phone with you, things like that.”
King’s death also raised the issue of gun control, particularly in urban areas.
“Stricter gun control, unless it kept a firearm out of the hands of the particular individual who [killed] Sergeant King, I don’t know that it would have made a difference,” Strom said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of anything that specifies the Loop in particular as it relates to firearms.”
Regardless of individual sentiment toward safety on the Loop, the University City and Washington University communities commemorate King and all fallen police officers. UCPD held a memorial on Oct. 31 commemorating fallen officers of the University City police department, and the city made a monument to honor those fallen officers.
“[King] was an extremely professional and compassionate police officer,” Strom said. “We certainly grieve not only for him but for his wife and family.”
Wild echoed Strom’s statement.
“We lost one of our distinguished alums last year when this happened,” Wild said. “The biggest part of this tragedy is the loss of a career police officer and an alumnus of Washington University.”