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The Jaco Report, Ep. 7: Mayor Lyda Krewson on police department scandals, the city-county merger and airport privatization

Despite a series of indictments, lawsuits, arrests, and the mysterious killing of one city police officer by another in an alleged game of Russian Roulette, Mayor Lyda Krewson denies that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department suffers from a culture of corruption.

In an interview on The Jaco Report, Krewson said she thinks the department is suffering, instead, from the actions of individual police officers.

“I think it’s very important for police Internal Affairs to take action when it’s warranted for officers who aren’t living up to the standards we expect them to live up to,” Krewson said. “The other thing about that is that it doesn’t mean all 1,200 of our officers are having issues.”

It was Krewson’s first statement on alleged police misconduct since the late January killing of Officer Katlyn Alix by Officer Nathaniel Hendren inside Hendren’s South Side apartment during what police claim was a game of Russian Roulette during which the officers aimed a gun at one another and pulled the trigger.

Besides that case, the department has been rocked by the arrest of two white officers for shooting a black civilian outside of a South Side tavern, the barring of 28 officers from being part of circuit court charges in any cases because of allegations of past lying, and the federal indictment of four white city officers for beating a black undercover officer during September, 2017 protests, and then covering it up. In addition, city police are the target of numerous federal civil rights lawsuits for alleged police brutality during those same protests.

When asked if the repeated incidents of violence by white officers against black protestors, black civilians, or even a black fellow officer shows that the department may have a racism problem, Mayor Krewson responded, “I think St. Louis has a problem with racism. And our police department is likely reflective of St. Louis.”

Krewson claimed her administration is actively urging city police to weed out misbehavior, and expressed confidence in Police Chief John Hayden, while insisting that all of the recent problems were due to individual decisions made by individual officers, and not due to any ethically lenient attitude by police commanders.

Krewson also tacitly admitted that race may play a factor in opposition to the plan to unify St. Louis city and county into one sprawling “metro-city” of 1.3 million people. When asked whether “white flight” residents of St. Louis county who moved to the county to escape from black people could be persuaded to favor unification based solely on an economic argument, Krewson said she does.

“If you don’t think what happens in the city of St. Louis affects your life in Chesterfield or South County, you’re badly mistaken,” Krewson said. “These are all of our neighbors. We need to attract business here, more jobs, more opportunities. We need to make it easier for businesses here to grow. And I think that will happen when we are less fragmented.”

Krewson also claimed that, so far, she merely wants to study the idea of privatizing Lambert St. Louis International Airport by leasing it long-term to a private corporation.

“I don’t know if I’m in favor of it or not because we don’t have any proposals yet,” the Mayor said. “What I’m in favor of is exploring the idea. Could we have more flights to more places more often?”

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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