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St. Louis prosecutors' police ‘exclusion list’ leads to a dozen dismissals so far

St. Louis prosecutors' police ‘exclusion list’ leads to a dozen dismissals so far

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ST. LOUIS • Prosecutors’ “exclusion list” banning 28 officers from pursuing criminal charges has led to the dismissal of 12 felony cases associated with officers on the list so far, officials say.

The dozen cases are primarily drug and gun possession cases, according to a spokeswoman for Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.

Police officers on the list have sought five cases and a search warrant from the circuit attorney’s office, spokeswoman Susan Ryan said. Of those, an assault case was declined “on the merits of the evidence” and a drug and gun case “because the only witness was the excluded officer.”

Prosecutors have filed two domestic assault cases brought by a banned officer after prosecutors found other witnesses; one assault case was filed because a sergeant instead of an excluded officer applied for charges, Ryan said. Also, the prosecutors authorized a search warrant because the partner of an excluded officer made the request instead of the excluded officer.

Gardner has yet to state publicly why the officers were put on the list, but she has issued statements saying prosecutors have “the responsibility to defend the integrity of the criminal justice system. Police officers play an important role in the criminal justice system, and the credibility of officers is one of the most important attributes of the job.”

Fallout from the list caused a complication in at least one court case.

In an email sent to officers Monday and obtained by the Post-Dispatch, Police Chief John Hayden briefed them about “a recent incident” involving an officer who was testifying during a trial and was asked whether his name was “on the list.”

“We still measure ourselves against the same standards of excellence and honor,” Hayden wrote. “When that honor is questioned, none of us can feel indifferent. And while we welcome the close scrutiny that comes with our profession’s unique grant of power and responsibility, none of us is made better by gossip, rumor and innuendo. One recent incident illustrates this clearly.”

Hayden said the officer in question was not on the list, but having not been informed one way or another, he could only answer that he did not know.

“You can imagine what effect this insinuation produced in the courtroom,” Hayden wrote.

Hayden then vowed to notify all officers on the list individually.

“We cannot allow obstacles like that to paralyze us as an agency,” Hayden wrote.

He continued: “Cooperation between government agencies is never perfect, but rest assured this incident has already served as a wake-up call that leaders at every level must communicate better, both with each other and with the public, going forward.”

A St. Louis judge on Sept. 6 issued an order preventing the city prosecutor’s office and police department from releasing the list to anyone; public and private defense lawyers and news organizations, including the Post-Dispatch, have requested it from both offices under the Missouri Sunshine Law.

Hayden has met with Gardner to discuss her concerns, and the two pledged to review the credibility of each listed officer.

The chief had been critical of the list, calling it an “unnecessary overreach.” He also denied that his department had a role in compiling the list. Ryan has said Maj. Michael Sack, who heads the internal affairs unit, asked Gardner’s chief warrant officer, Chris Hinckley, for a list.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association has blasted Gardner over the list, calling it “dangerous” to both police and public safety. Business Manager Jeff Roorda said some officers were on it because they asserted their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in cases where Gardner’s office was simultaneously reviewing an officer’s conduct in a police shooting and pursuing charges against the person shot.

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