St. Louis County police say they are looking into allegations that officers covered up security cameras during shifts at a MetroLink substation, among other allegations raised by Metro transit officials in a Sunday Post-Dispatch column.
The statement released Sunday by county police Chief Jon Belmar and spokesman Sgt. Shawn McGuire implies the allegations are the result of “politics and infighting.” The statement says the security camera at North Hanley MetroLink substation, which documented at least eight instances since 2015 of police covering up its lens, is improperly placed in a “private room.”
“A limited number of carefully selected images from over a two-and-a-half-year period that were pulled from an improperly-placed surveillance camera in a 12x14 private room appeared with the article,” McGuire wrote. “This room is used to monitor security cameras, hold briefings and complete report writing. It is also the only room officers have to take breaks from work and weather as well as change clothes and equipment at the end of a shift.”
McGuire wrote that the camera, which is monitored by the Bi-State Development Agency, “is clearly an invasion of privacy.”
“Regardless of the critic’s opinion, however motivated such an opinion may be, I am confident that the doubling of manpower on the line by the St. Louis County Police Department last year partnered with the good work of our police officers, is making a difference,” Belmar said in the statement.
The department previously had declined to make Belmar or Capt. Scott Melies, who supervises the county officers working MetroLink, available for Sunday’s piece by columnist Tony Messenger.
Metro operates 46 miles of light rail and 79 bus routes in its territory, which traverses St. Louis County, the city of St. Louis, and St. Clair County in Illinois.
In response to spikes in violence, including shootings and assaults on light-rail platforms in the city and county, St. Louis County now supervises all the officers working the transit system under a memorandum of understanding signed by regional political leaders.
The allegations follow months of building tension between county police and Metro public safety officials over patrolling the public transit rails.
Metro officers have been unable to enforce laws on the transit lines in the county under legal threat from both Belmar and St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. Those county officials allege that the Metro officers — all of whom have Class A peace officer licenses through the state of Missouri — lack the proper legal authority to enforce the law.