Week of March 3, 2004

Straight Eye for the Queer Guy
Enough already with the gay-boy shtick: Like a handful of other hetero females (some who, like me, dragged their sig other along), I made the mistake of seeing Rufus Wainwright last Sunday [Mike Seely, "Wanted: Man," February 18].

Now, I'm all for smooth and soulful love songs and kicky pop, but coupled as it was with a gay-boy shtick comparable to a shallow and lifeless sitcom (Will and Grace, anyone?), I soon found myself shifting in my seat, covering the unborn's ears. Was it homophobia on my part? I think not; I'd love to see Liberace if I'd the chance. So what was it? Perhaps the story Rufus shared of seducing a "straight" (imagine if the situation were inverted!) through song, or the one that he explained didn't work on the straight guy in the gym. Suddenly those songs were off my list of playables (no pun intended).

Or maybe it was his narcissistic epiphanies ("I look like Axl Rose's gay cousin Bob!"). It only solidified my belief that artists shouldn't speak unless spoken to.

Rufus was lame. Starting off in French, gurgling scales in between (while referring to his voice as a Cadillac) and ending the show with some patriotic angst song complete with the phrase "stars and stripes." I walked out after the first line. Why is it that we can't demand our money back? My sig other said it best when he quoted The Simpsons (as he often does): "This is better than a movie, why?"

If anyone's interested in a couple of Rufus CDs, let me know.
Carol Cox
St. Louis

Police Story
No way to take back our city: After reading Bruce Rushton's February 11 cover story "Dirty Little Secrets," I don't know whether to question your timing or your tact. Less than two weeks after the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department loses one officer and has another hospitalized after a shootout with a crack dealer, you let Rushton write an article that leads off by trying to make us sympathetic to another crack dealer!

I am sure there are bad cops and maybe good cops who have done bad things, and those issues certainly need to be addressed. However, you could exercise a little sympathy for the good guys. Even the best cops know that every time they have to confront one of these criminals it is a potentially life-or-death situation and they sometimes have split seconds to make decisions that you and I can sit around and debate for hours. It's no surprise that in using extreme caution, some poor drug dealer loses a tooth. I'm sure that there are plenty of minor injuries to officers that we don't hear about. If we continue letting drug dealers and criminals cry "Victim!" we are never going to get our city back.

In the future, have a little respect for our fallen heroes. And the next time I see a crackhead, I'll be sure to send him around to Mr. Rushton's house for a comforting hug and a glass of warm milk.
Jesse F. Graftenreed
St. Louis

News...with a grieving period: Since the city of St. Louis just buried Officer Nick Sloan, I consider your cover shot extremely tasteless. Now is not the time to place such a negative story. Could you, perhaps, have waited a month or more out of respect for our police force and give them some time to grieve? This feature is unbelievably ill-timed, and the lock image is just stupid.
Donald J. Bellon
University City

A scar on our society: It took a lot of balls for Bruce Rushton to write "Dirty Little Secrets," and it's people with exceptional character that despite the backlash would do what is morally and socially correct. I am all too aware of the situation. My father has been a police officer for 30-plus years.

Police brutality and/or misconduct is a scar on our society. A little over a year ago, my own brother was beaten badly by police in St. Charles County. The bill for his emergency-room visit exceeded $15,000.

His attorney requested the personnel file of one of the officers in question, as well as a mental evaluation. But anything that would have brought to light the misconduct of said officer was quashed, making it impossible for my brother to defend himself. There is a serious problem with our justice system.

There is a need for a public police-review board. The federal government needs to enforce stiff penalties against police officers guilty of such misconduct. If they have some emotional/mental disorder, the public should be aware of that. After all, they have laws prohibiting people with psychiatric problems from owning a gun. Why should we trust our lives and those of our children to a police department that hides such information from the public?
Melissa Brown
St. Louis

No joke: I want to commend Bruce Rushton on a fine job. On two occasions I have been turned away by police claiming that they do not have an internal-affairs office.

The first was in University City, where I was told they have no complaints department. More recently, I called the St. Louis police department and was told by internal affairs to bring my complaints by. When I arrived, I asked the officer at the front desk to direct me to the internal affairs office. He told me that the office didn't exist, and that "we don't take complaints here." I told him that was strange, since the internal-affairs office had just told me on the phone to come down there. He made a phone call and an internal-affairs officer came down to meet me. As I entered the elevator, the officer at the front desk said, "You know I was only joking, right?"

I wasn't laughing. I hope Rushton's article encourages the department to mend its ways, but I'm not getting my hopes up.
Matthew Berliant
St. Louis

A citizens' call to arms: I have been a victim of police violence, more than once, as an activist in St. Louis. Last March 30 I was nothing short of beaten by the police on Lindell Boulevard during an anti-war march. Having been denied medical care while in jail, I was treated for head and neck injuries at a local hospital after being released. After examining my wrists, discolored from the handcuffs, the doctor asked, "Who assaulted you?" Before I answered, he told me it was his legal duty to call the police. "Go ahead and call them," I responded with a laugh. "They were the perpetrators of my assault."

I never bothered going to internal affairs. Reporting to the perpetrators is like asking a rape victim to go ask her rapist to perform the medical tests to prove or disprove the rape. It is a system that will never begin to be just until we no longer ask the police to police themselves.

I am in full support of a civilian-oversight board and also in an active citizen population. Stop when you see police officers harassing youth on the street or on the MetroLink. Stop and watch the police illegally searching people's vehicles and especially stop and watch the unbelievable acts of physical violence daily by the police force on other citizens. Then call the local news. Demand investigation and support civilian oversight. If you do that for a stranger, maybe you will not be alone when the cops are knocking your skull into the pavement.
Jamie Smith
St. Louis

Steps in the right direction: I am a member of the executive committee for the University City Community Forum, an organization dedicated to increasing understanding and communication between and among the citizens and government of the city. Recently, a group of citizens came forward at one of our public meetings to ask for assistance with persistent problems that they perceive with the U. City police department. Whether problems are real or imagined is subject to debate, and with all due respect to my organization, direct investigation is outside of our purview. However, based on these concerns, we have formed a working committee that is intended to increase the dialogue between the citizen and the police department. With the help of citizens as well as the city council and city manager, we are researching the most effective ways police departments encourage accountability to citizens. Ideas such as a civilian police academy and a civilian review board have been discussed.

Needless to say, I read Bruce Rushton's article regarding the secrecy in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department with great interest. You have done an excellent job in raising important questions in St. Louis.
Tobias Gibson
University City

The code of silence: As someone who has worked on police abuse cases for many years, I can say you uncovered some dirty tricks even I didn't know about. Bruce Rushton's story was an eye-popper for the average citizen who wants to believe that police are law enforcers, not lawbreakers. Rushton makes a compelling case regarding the inability of the police to police themselves and their refusal to have an open and honest relationship with the taxpaying public.

Again, thank you for your insightful journalism. It brings us closer to understanding the roots and justification of the code of silence long perpetuated by the St. Louis Police Department.
Jamala Rogers
St. Louis