The St. Louis Circuit Attorney said this week she’ll no longer accept criminal cases handled by 28 city police officers.
Local reports say Attorney Kim Gardner presented the St. Louis Police Department with a so-called “exclusion list” of more than two-dozen police officers she says she’s virtually banned from filing criminal cases for a whole host of reasons – including some who previously exercised their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and others who exhibited what she's deemed to be “questionable” behavior.
What’s more, Gardner’s office also said they’re now reviewing the “viability” of any current cases in which these officers were directly involved, jeopardizing countless open criminal cases.
St. Louis Today reports Gardner’s office also told the police department in an email that “warrant applications involving [these] officers as essential witnesses will be refused if their participation is essential to the successful prosecution of the case, “ and that “[c]ases previously issued where the above officers are essential witnesses will be reviewed for viability.”
The police department says they were caught totally off-guard by Gardner’s “ban” list, alleging the Circuit Attorney didn't even say why all the included officers were on it in the first place. The department added they’re looking into their legal options.
Offending behavior apparently includes traffic stops in which officers showed “questionable” and “unacceptable” behavior, as well as officers who refused to testify in cases without first being granted immunity. For example, Gardner's office in 2017 attempted to pursue charges against a man who was shot and wounded by police officers, while simultaneously investigating the police officer involved in the shooting for misuse of deadly force. The officer in question refused to testify in the criminal case against the wounded man for fear his testimony could be used against him at his own trial.
Courts eventually ruled Gardner couldn't pursue both cases at once due to an "appearance of impropriety."
Top officials with the local police union told St. Louis Today that some of the officers on Gardner's list had already been absolved by the state in past cases. Others, they said, are on the list and don’t even know why, asserting that Gardner's office is depriving them of "due process" without providing an explanation.
NBC5 reported that so far, Gardner "did not give specifics on why the list was created"
A written statement from Gardner published Thursday on St. Louis Today’s website stated that prosecutors have “the responsibility to defend the integrity of the criminal justice system. Police officers play an important role in the criminal justice system, and the credibility of officers is one of the most important attributes of the job.”
“A police officer’s word, and the complete veracity of that word, is fundamentally necessary to doing the job. Therefore, any break in trust must be approached with deep concern,” the statement read.
The paper adds these officers make up about 2.5 percent of entire department, and about 5 percent of their front-line officers.
So just to re-cap, these officers are still tasked with doing their daily jobs and making traffic stops, arresting criminals and responding to calls. They just can’t actually charge any of the criminals they catch, take the lead on any investigations, or testify in any of the cases -- a plan that should go really well for a city that already boasts some of the highest crime rates in the United States.