By Lindsay Toler
By Chad Garrison
By Brett Koshkin
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Riverfront Times
By Danny Wicentowski
By Pete Kotz
[Amid the mahogany trim, mirrored ceiling and leather upholstery, a player's worst enemy -- morality -- rears its head, in the form of acute claustrophobia and unspeakable visions of Mike Tyson, Marv Albert and Kobe Bryant] Where's the door in this damn thing!
Police officers are rarely mistaken for fashionistas. While citizens aplenty zig to the espresso bar, cops typically zag to the Eat-Rite for a steaming pot of leaded fuel and the grease-plate special. And when it's time to wind down, hipsters peep Queer Eye for the Straight Guy while cops might watch, well, Cops. Need further proof of police officers' cultural tin ear? Check out those cruisers they typically wheel around in (and the corny wraparound shades they wear).
But then, out of nowhere, comes an officer speeding down Washington Avenue on a 150cc white Vespa -- a sexy, sassy vessel that's as retro-chic as retro-chic gets.
"We're kind of progressive here in the Fourth District," St. Louis police Captain Larry O'Toole says of the district's three Italian scooters. The two-wheelers, O'Toole imparts, were purchased from Vespa St. Louis on Manchester Road for $5,000 apiece, with Community Improvement District funds doled out by the Downtown St. Louis Partnership. "The idea came from the fact that we were looking for a way to get around downtown a bit faster than bicycles. All the officers love them so far. People downtown and on Washington Avenue are like, 'Wow, look at those Vespas!'"
Impressed they are, confirms local filmmaker and downtown loft dweller Margie Newman. In fact, according to O'Toole and Ninth District Lieutenant Kenneth Kegel, the Vespas have proved so popular and effective that the department is considering buying more for patrols in Forest Park and the Central West End, where the svelte scoots might serve as a spiffy deterrent to foot-soldier drug peddlers who are all too often able to exploit the city's many blocked-off boulevards to evade their cruiser-bound pursuers.
Vespa USA spokeswoman Kimberlee Auletta says that while Vespas are utilized by police officers in Spain, France, Singapore, Puerto Rico and Portugal, St. Louis might well be the first major metropolitan U.S. city to purchase them for official use.
Asked if he'll consider letting the Vespa patrol officers dress up like Italian models for hot August night patrols, O'Toole says he's keeping an open mind.