ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner added 22 more names Tuesday to a list of officers banned from bringing cases to her office, this time after a national research project accused them of making racist and anti-Muslim social media posts.
The total number is now almost 60, roughly 5% of the department’s force of about 1,100 commissioned officers.
Gardner sent a letter to Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden on Tuesday informing them of the changes, saying that seven of the 22 officers are “permanently banned,” meaning her office won’t issue charges based on their investigations, won’t apply for search warrants they seek and won’t consider cases in which they are essential witnesses.
The work of the remaining 15 officers will be reviewed by Gardner’s office “to determine conditions and reinstatement of their ability to present cases,” according to a statement from Gardner’s spokeswoman, Susan Ryan.
Edwards was unavailable for comment.
Hayden’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The announcement follows the disclosure this month of a study by the Philadelphia-based Plain View Project of Facebook posts by current and former officers in St. Louis and seven other jurisdictions around the country. The group’s database surveyed more than 5,000 Facebook posts from 3,500 Facebook accounts of current and former officers in the eight departments.
Forty-three accounts are tied to St. Louis police officers on the Plain View site, according to the project’s founder, lawyer Emily Baker-White. Twenty-two of those are tied to current police officers with the metropolitan police department, and 21 of them are former officers.
Mayor Lyda Krewson called the Facebook posts “disturbing and unacceptable.” Hayden and Edwards vowed to conduct “an extensive review” of the posts.
Two weeks ago, Gardner’s office said it would examine the posts and “determine appropriate measures to protect the public.”
On Tuesday, the statement said her office had done “an extensive review” of these “disturbing social media posts.”
“Police integrity is at the core of the community’s confidence in the criminal justice system,” Gardner wrote. “When a police officer’s integrity is compromised in this manner, it compromises the entire criminal justice system and our overall ability to pursue justice.
“After careful examination of the underlying bias contained in those social media posts, we have concluded that this bias would likely influence an officer’s ability to perform his or her duties in an unbiased manner.”
The move comes the day after Gardner’s private investigator, William Don Tisaby, was arrested after a grand jury indicted him on perjury and evidence-tampering charges.
Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association, called Gardner’s announcement a red herring.
“If these officers are determined to have engaged in misconduct, we have a process,” he said. “There’s no due process in what Kim Gardner did today. It’s just panic at the disco.”
Tension between the police department and Gardner’s office has been building for months.
The Post-Dispatch reported in the fall that Gardner’s office had put 29 officers on an “exclusion list” at the request of St. Louis police Maj. Michael Sack. Chief Hayden fired back, denying that Sack requested such a list be created.
The Police Officers’ Association took Gardner’s office to court, seeking a protective order to keep the identities of the officers sealed, arguing that their professional and personal reputations could be permanently damaged if they are released. The union has argued that Gardner’s office has never made clear how officers’ names are added to the list, how they can get off of it, or what they did to get on it.
Gardner’s spokeswoman confirmed that more officers had been added to the list since the fall and that the number now stands at 59.
In her letter to Edwards and Hayden on Monday, Gardner stated that “many of the social media statements and viewpoints of these officers are shocking and beneath the dignity of someone who holds such a powerful position.”