ST. LOUIS — National, state and city police union officials called Monday for Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner to resign over a comment she made on Twitter last week criticizing officers’ actions before a fatal police shooting in St. Louis.
“This is a disturbing nationwide trend of our local prosecutors failing to fulfill their public responsibilities,” said Patrick Yoes, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “Officers enforcing the law need to be confident that their counterparts in the courtroom will use the full force of law to take and keep bad guys off the streets.”
Last week, St. Louis Alderman Megan Green commented on a deadly encounter in which drug suspect Cortez Shepherd was fatally shot by city police. Earlier in the day, uniformed officers patrolling the 3900 block of Garfield Avenue tried to arrest Shepherd, 28, for marijuana possession. When Shepherd reached for his gun, police said, an officer fatally shot him. A 7-year-old girl was in the car with Shepherd at the time. Police said they recovered a fully loaded revolver, marijuana and other suspected drugs.
Several hours later Green said on Twitter that the police encounter that led to Shepherd’s death was a “waste of Police resources” and “never should have happened.”
Gardner commented on Green’s tweet, leaving one word on the social media site: “Exactly.”
Last year, St. Louis aldermen reduced the fine for possession of less than 35 grams of marijuana to a maximum of $25 from as high as $500. Gardner declared she would stop prosecuting possession cases if the amount was less than 100 grams.
On Monday, Yoes issued a statement saying Gardner’s tweet was irresponsible, made before a full review of the facts, and reflected “a lack of reverence” for the law and for due process.
“This cavalier approach to the administration of justice puts citizens and those sworn to protect them at increased risk,” Yoes said. “It also undermines the integrity of the criminal justice system.”
Other union officials joined Yoes in the criticism.
Rick Inglima, president of the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, defended officers making contact with the public, said Gardner’s suggestion such actions are a problem “defies belief,” and added that she has “zero credibility” with law enforcement.
Ed Clark, president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association — which has been very critical of Gardner — also called for her ouster, saying she “is sending messages to our officers and the community that she will always side with the criminal, whether he is an armed drug dealer terrorizing a neighborhood or a desperate criminal willing to kill a police officer to avoid returning to prison.”
Asked to comment on the situation, U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen said, “I support and appreciate the dangerous work St. Louis police officers do every day. This includes investigating convicted felons who possess firearms.”
Late Monday, Gardner called on the unions to work with her office instead of against it.
“Enough is enough,” she said in a statement.