by Kevin Bliss
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has a list of 28 of the city’s police department officers whose cases her office will no longer accept, citing credibility issues. Already Gardner’s office has refused the prosecution of several cases, effectively preventing 2.5 percent of the police department’s workforce from incarcerating offenders.
A request was made under the Sunshine Law for Gardner to release the list of names to the public. This request was rejected, citing exclusion rules regarding attorney-client privilege and because they constitute “legal work product.”
In addition, the police union filed a request for a temporary restraining order preventing any release of those names. The order alleged that Gardner’s Chief Warrant Officer Chris Hinckley and the police department “declined to explain the reasons for placement upon this list, the criteria determining what constitutes placement on this list, and procedures by which an individual could challenge placement on the list.”
Gardner met with Police Chief John Hayden to discuss the problem. According to Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, the two are committed to conducting fair investigations to ensure justice for those accused of crimes on a case-by-case basis. Yet, after the meeting, Gardner and Hayden issued contradicting statements. Gardner said Major Michael Sack asked for the original list to help him hold his officers accountable. Hayden said, “No leaders from our Department asked the Circuit Attorney’s Office to compile an Exclusion List, nor do we have any need for such a list.” He added that it was an “unnecessary overreach,” that there was nothing to show that the list was properly vetted.
Hayden said several of the officers on the list were cleared of charges against them, and six no longer worked for the department.
Gardner responded that it was their credibility she was concerned about. She said prosecutors would continue pursuing the remaining officers’ cases as long as it was not necessary for them to testify to gain a conviction.
The police union reps demanded that they be invited to any future meeting between Gardner and Hayden to represent the input of those accused and the rest of the police force.
The restraining order alleged the “Placement on the list does potential harm and damage to the reputation of the petitioner, defamation of his or her character, impedes the ability to perform current employment duties, jeopardizes potential for advancement and promotion and violates the due process rights of the named petitioner. Furthermore, public disclosure of plaintiff’s name puts his safety at risk in the performance of his duties.”
Sources: stlouistoday.com, washingtontimes.com
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