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Rocking cops: Singing with the St. Louis Police Department
Cop choir

Rocking cops: Singing with the St. Louis Police Department

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Peanut butter and jelly. Bacon and eggs. Ashford and Simpson. The Captain and Tennille.

Some things just go well together.

But fighting crime and music?

Believe it.

Officer John Leggette has been busting criminals for the St. Louis Police Department (SLPD) for nine years. He's been hitting high notes much longer.

Now he's one of the key forces behind the SLPD's newly-formed choir.

"We're one of only four police choirs in the country," said Leggette, who minored in music at Lincoln University in Jefferson City.

Leggette's been singing in choirs going back to grade school.

So when the United Way approached SLPD Chief Dan Isom about forming a police choir to mark the anniversary of 9/11 with a one-off concert, Isom approached Leggette.

Leggette sent out a department-wide e-mail scouting for talent.

First he signed up commissioned officers. Then he opened it up to civilian employees, before adding a few community volunteers.

A 24-member police choir was born. Fourteen commissioned officers, five singers from the civilian pool and five from the community.

"We had folks who sang, folks who didn't, black and white, male and female," Leggette said.

The choir was still in need of a director. Enter Philip Woodmore.

Woodmore directs the 260-student strong choral program in the Rockwood School District. He also runs the voice program at the Center for the Creative Arts in University City.

He owns music degrees from St. Louis and Webster Universities and began playing piano at five.

But he had never seen cops rock (to the spirit of choral music).

"I was shocked," he said. "You see it all the time in the military, but not with the St. Louis Police Department."

But Woodmore was intrigued.

He signed up and began rehearsals, assisted by choir manager Leggette.

The 9/11 concert was scheduled for Kiener Plaza.

Though there were nerves all around, the choir came through in fine fashion.

"I knew this was something I wanted to continue," Woodmore said.

Backed by the department, the choir became official.

Two more performances followed, including a dual show with students from Carr/Lane Middle School in St. Louis.

The choir is now rehearsing for perhaps its biggest gig yet — a slot singing at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Parade on Jan. 17.

The choir will open with a number at the Old Cathedral, march to Powell Hall, then conclude with a second number.

The choir sings music from all over the spectrum, anything from classical and gospel to Ukranian folk tunes.

"Gospel is an easy pull for some of (the choir), but I like to get them out of their comfort zones," Woodmore said.

The department hopes to use the choir as a roving ambassador, appearing at nursing homes, sporting events or even traveling out-of-state for large police memorials.

Leggette said the choir displays a different side of the department, especially to children.

"We want to show kids that we are human like everyone else," he said. "But we have to uphold the law because it's our job."

But Leggette admits some find the thought of singing cops a bit comical.

Even 20 years after it debuted and promptly disappeared, ABC's failed police musical "Cop Rock" still looms large over any notion of singing cops.

"We were compared to the Village People," Leggette said. "Sometimes we get jokes. But when they hear us, they don't laugh."

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