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St. Louis Police Remain Out of Control, Mayor Absent

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department remains out of control. It took federal investigators last week—not Police Chief John Hayden or Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, the men directly in charge of the department, nor Mayor Lyda Krewson, the woman ultimately in charge—to finally hold city police officers responsible for the horrible and unprofessional behavior that was on display for all to see in September of 2017. 

The department remains out of control because following the return of local control from the state in 2013, no mayor—not Francis Slay and not Lyda Krewson—has ever taken control of it. Instead, they get bullied by the police union the same way their most violent officers bully our citizens.

For 152 years, the state of Missouri controlled St. Louis City’s police department, with the  governor appointing four members of the five-member police board with the mayor serving as the fifth. But on September 1, 2013, after a statewide vote and the signing of Executive Order No. 48, the city was given back full control of its police like nearly every other city in America. Then-Mayor Francis Slay put in his hand-picked new chief, Sam Dotson, to run the department much like it had always been ran, largely autonomously from the rest of city government.  

Although the charter says that under local control the public safety director has direct oversight over the police department and the police chief (or “commissioner” as the position is now called), that’s not how it worked under the Slay administration. In another move to appease the police union and assure them that nothing was really going to change, Slay appointed Richard Gray as public safety director. Gray, a former president of the old police board, was left out of the loop on all major decisions related to crime and the department.

Under Mayor Krewson, the situation isn’t much better.

The protests following the verdict in the Jason Stockley murder trial were the first big test for Krewson’s leadership. By most accounts, she failed. She failed to take control of the situation; to engage the protestors or the public in the time of crisis. But most of all, she failed to take control of her police department.

When video aired on television of an elderly white woman being knocked to the ground and trampled by St. Louis City police officers dressed in full riot gear, there was no admonishment from the mayor. No call for restraint or professionalism.

When Mike Faulk, a reporter from the Post-Dispatch, reported being abused by police, pushed down to the ground, held by putting a boot to his head, and sprayed in the face with pepper spray after his wrists were bound with zip ties, there were no firings or disciplining of the officers involved. 

The message from the mayor was silent, but as clear as day: “Carry on, boys.”

Thank goodness federal prosecutors take police abuse more seriously than St. Louis City mayors do.

Last week, four St. Louis police officers were indicted on federal charges that three of them beat a black undercover officer during those Stockley protests and conspired to covered it up. In the indictment, prosecutors published text messages from the officers sent during the protests.

From police officer Dustin Boone:

“It’s gonna get IGNORANT tonight!! But it’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these shitheads once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart!!!!”

“I’m on [Sgt **’s] arrest team! me and a BIG OL black dude r the guys that are hands on! No stick or shield….. just fuck people up when they don’t act right!

“That’s my dude today! Haha he’s basically a thug that’s on our side!!! It’s he and I that just grab fuckers and toss em around”

“This shit is crazy……. but it’s fucking AWESOME too! Except for cops getting hurt. People on the streets got FUCKED UP! Lol

“We reloading these fools up on prisoner busses. As they got on we all said in unison “OUR STREETS” haha

And from a conversation between Boone and officer Randy Hays:

“Remember were are in south city. They support us but also cameras. So make sure you have an old white dude as a witness.”

The behavior described in this indictment and in these text messages are an embarrassment to the city and are as much an indictment of the leadership of the mayor as they are of the officers themselves. These are not “outliers”, as the Krewson administration said in response to these most recent indictments. This is the culture of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. And it’s past time for the mayor to take control and responsibility for her police department. 

Antonio French

antonio@thenorthsider.com Antonio French is the publisher of MetroSTL.com, The NorthSider and SouthSider community newspapers. Born and raised in north St. Louis, he is a social entrepreneur and former two-term St. Louis City alderman. He lives in the O'Fallon Park neighborhood with his wife, son, and four rescue dogs. Follow him on Twitter at @antoniofrench.

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