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'Good call' on anonymity column, reader says

Letter to the editor

To the editor:

Back in the "Roaring '70s,'' I worked as a police officer in St. Louis city.

The monthly police officers' association newspaper was one of my main interests.

The newspaper contained labor-related law enforcement news from all over the country as well as local police and political topics.

Most interesting, however, were the letters to the editor; nearly all from cops. The authors thereof were usually identified by "Name Withheld on Request.''

I was an outspoken critic of police management and the department's insidious manipulation by nefarious politicians and business interests from around the state. I had a letter to the editor published nearly every month; each identifying the author — without regret.

When in non-public circumstances, a majority of officers expressed support for me and my bringing to public attention many of the failings of an archaic police system.

Those letters fueled an interesting phenomenon; the best example of which occurred in the lobby of the police headquarters building one morning. My partner and I were on our way to the record room.

As we entered the headquarters building, we encountered gaggles of detectives and assorted uniformed officers milling in the lobby.

My partner and I were well-known street cops from "The Bloody Fifth,'' so we were immediately greeted by many of those present. We exchanged greetings and engaged in the usual police banter.

Our group of interlocutors was growing quickly when the door to the elevator opened and the chief and several of his sycophants walked into the lobby. It was as if someone had yelled "fire.''

Within moments, amid a staccato of "Hi, chief,'' and "Good morning, chief,'' the crowd in the lobby vanished. My partner and I were mystified and amused.

The detectives and others fled likes rats from a sinking ship. No wonder though. The chief had a nasty character flaw: paranoia.

He knew only two kinds of people: friends and enemies. There was no in-between. You were either friend or foe. Talking to me meant that you were foe. In essence, speaking out, even though you spoke the truth, was a career-ending course of action in the St. Louis Police Department.

Gutless cowards behind the cloak of anonymity? Wow. That's strong language. Many of my letters to the editors of our community newspapers have been published. As a result, I've received several anonymous letters telling me how wrong I am about a particular topic. No name, no blame.

Why do people lack the courage to attach their name to that which they purport to believe in? Can we consider as serious those who will neither state nor defend their position publicly? Gutless cowards behind the cloak of anonymity? I think so.

Good call, Mr. Anthony.

Michael K. Broughton

Green Park

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