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The Jaco Report, Ep. 9: Aldermanic President Lewis Reed on changes needed in police department’s culture, city-county merger

In his first interview since winning the Democratic primary for a fourth term as President of the city’s Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed sits down with Charles Jaco to discuss a wide range of topics.

In a split with both Mayor Lyda Krewson and Police Chief John Hayden, Reed says an overall culture of tolerating bad behavior, violence and racism in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department needs to be changed, and that the department’s culture is getting in the way of its effectiveness as a law enforcement organization.

Both Mayor Krewson and Chief Hayden have repeatedly said that recent department problems—from federal indictments of four officers for beating a black undercover officer and then covering it up, to 28 officers who can no longer bring cases to the Circuit Attorney for prosecution because of past lying—are merely instances of bad decisions by individual officers.

But Reed told The Jaco Report that unprofessional conduct and misbehavior inside the city police department flourishes because of a departmental culture that tolerates bad behavior.

“Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards has done a really good job of beginning to clean out and change that culture,” said Reed. “That culture’s been in place for so many years.”

When asked about Krewson and Hayden’s blaming incidents from the “Russian Roulette” murder of one officer by another to the arrest of two officers for shooting a civilian outside a south side bar on individual decisions, Reed replied “There has to be something else going on there.”

Reed went on to say that a police culture that tolerates the kind of brutality alleged in over a dozen Federal civil lawsuits makes the department less effective in fighting crime because civilians don’t trust officers.

“Look, because of some of that culture that obviously exists, you know, obviously that is having an impact on the department’s effectiveness,” Reed said.

“We cannot change a system by denying those things that are real in people’s minds. And that’s real. And that has to be addressed head on.”

Reed was also critical of the Better Together plan to unify St. Louis City and County into one giant “metro city” with a 1.3 million population. Reed said the plan lacked transparency and did not have the confidence of either City or County residents.

Reed instead proposed a slow process of creating co-operative arrangements between City and County agencies, determining if they worked, and then deciding whether to make them permanent. Reed, agreeing that having over 55 police forces in St. Louis County is “ridiculous”, said a go-slow experiment should start with police.

“We can put into place a co-operative agreement that brings together various different aspects of the City’s police department, their training, and the St. Louis County Police Department and its training and all the municipalities,” Reed said.

Reed added that as long as the Better Together proposal called for a state-wide vote on unifying St. Louis City and County, he would oppose the unification plan.

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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One Comment

  1. I concur with BoA President Reed’s thinking. Some things need to change at the management level so that zero tolerance for negative acting out on the part of individual officers is not tolerated – from racist attitudes and actions, to throw away guns in officer’s possession, to covering for one another., etc., etc. I don’t know anyone who likes Bettee Together other than the people employed to work on this plan

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