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Mistreatment claim, child struck among incidents leading to oversight calls for St. Louis County police

Mistreatment claim, child struck among incidents leading to oversight calls for St. Louis County police

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St. Louis County Police Headquarters

The flags outside St. Louis County Police Headquarters on Forsyth in Clayton fly at half staff Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, after the fatal motor vehicle accident that took the life of St . Louis County Police Officer James "Mitch" Ellis, on Thursday, Oct. 10, in Illinois. Photo by Hillary Levin, hlevin@post-dispatch.com

CLAYTON — After a series of incidents involving St. Louis County police officers, several speakers told the County Council and County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday they want a civilian board to rule on police complaints.

In one incident, a police SUV struck and critically injured a 12-year-old pedestrian Monday at Halls Ferry Road and Riverview Boulevard. Police said the officer was trying to catch up to a suspicious vehicle to make a traffic stop when she was hit. St. Louis city police are investigating the incident.

And Millicent Williams, 63, told Page and council members she was mistreated by an officer in April during a traffic stop. She said the officer was upset because she didn’t immediately pull over; she said she told him she didn’t know it was a police officer behind her. She said she was frisked and handcuffed, talked to rudely, and her car was searched.

A police spokesman said Tuesday night that investigators from the department’s bureau of professional standards looked into Williams’ complaint and the officer was disciplined as a result.

“This culture has got to change,” the Rev. Darryl Gray, a civil rights activist, told Page and the council. “We want civilian oversight. Police can’t police, period.”

The police department has long maintained that the county already has a civilian board that investigates allegations of officer misconduct: The Board of Police Commissioners. The board’s monthly meeting includes a closed session in which the captain overseeing the Bureau of Professional Standards reviews use-of-force cases and internal affairs matters. The board’s discussion of the cases and individual outcomes are not released to the public.

Page said in comments after Tuesday’s council meeting that he thought the council would “continue to talk about” civilian oversight of the county police. “We’ve talked about it for a couple of years and it’s on the list of very complicated questions that really weren’t addressed over the last five years because the council was busy addressing overwhelming corruption in county government.

“As far as what’s happened in the past few weeks with our police officers and civilian interactions, I think I’m going to let the process work,” Page said. “I’m not going to build a policy question around an individual event like that.”

He said the police board is a civilian oversight board, but “the question is how do they … manage complaints and what role does the department have?”

Trust fund delayed

The council did not vote to advance a bill that would create a trust fund to help increase the availability of safe and inexpensive housing.

Its co-sponsor, Lisa Clancy, D-5th District, said she was holding the bill to address questions from other council members. The council’s presiding officer, Ernie Trakas, R-6th District, said the council would discuss the bill in a committee hearing at the request of Mark Harder, R-7th District.

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