Eleven St. Louis city police officers have been charged with crimes in the last seven months. Charges have included: federal civil rights violations, shooting a patron outside of a bar, stealing a suspect’s cell phone, and injuring handcuffed suspects while they were being transported. The man in charge of the troubled St. Louis City police department says some of those arrests came because he turned his own officers in to prosecutors.
Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards says charges against some of those officers resulted from a review he ordered of all police Internal Affairs Division files going back to 2014. In some files, investigators discovered that charges against officers had never been filed, or resulted in only administrative action.
“As a result of that, you’ve seen a number of officers arrested, that have been transferred over to the Circuit Attorney for consideration,” Edwards said. “You’ve seen officers that have been arrested and indicted at the federal court level. Well, a lot of that was the result of the fact that we are now taking a different look.”
Edwards would not identify the specific cases where he turned over evidence to prosecutors, but when asked if he would do the same thing again, he responded, “Absolutely.”
“There are some people on the St. Louis Police Department that should not be police officers. And it is my job to try to root those folk out and to try to change the culture,” Edwards said. “The culture manifests itself because of the leadership, or the lack thereof. And so it is important that the leaders all the way down to the patrolmen understand we have to do things differently.”
Edwards said he will continue an aggressive campaign to root out bad behavior and bad officers from the police department. “I am not naïve. We have had systemic—and continue to have some systemic—issues inside of the police department,” said Edwards. “Implicit biases. Racism. Excessive force. All of those things should be addressed. And we are addressing them.”
Edward’s critique of the internal culture of the police department seems to put him at odds with his boss, Mayor Lyda Krewson. Krewson has said repeatedly that there is no problem with overall culture within the police department, but rather a problem with individuals who misbehave.
“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 on The Jaco Report last month. “The other thing about that is that it doesn’t mean all 1,200 of our officers are having issues.”
Edwards said that the department needs to hire 140 new officers to bring the department up to full strength. Edwards said he intends to use those new hires to change the department’s overall culture, and the way it does business. “I expect our officers to be lawful, to engage in good behavior, and if they don’t, there will be consequences,” he said.
Edwards says he’s going to reduce the emphasis on hiring young officers, and instead focus on older men and women who know the city and would like a career in law enforcement.
“We’re going to have to recruit differently. The officers have to reflect our community. I’m looking to change our focus,” Edwards said.
“Our focus has always been on young officers, have them be officers when they’re 21,” said Edwards. “Why haven’t we looked in the churches, for the 30- or 40-year-old interested in making a career change? If you love our city and want to treat people respectfully, then I want you to consider the St. Louis Police Department.”