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Letter: More can be done to reform police, weed out bad cops

Letter: More can be done to reform police, weed out bad cops

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St. Ann chase

An aerial photo of the aftermath of a police chase that ended in a crash near Natural Bridge and Kingshighway boulevards in north St. Louis on April 9, 2019. An arrest after the chase is at the center of federal charges facing former St. Ann police Detective Ellis Brown III. Photo courtesy of KTVI (Fox 2.)

The editorial “A bad cop was finally convicted after a long history of violence and abuse” (June 12) gets it right, as far as it goes, in my opinion. This was indeed a bad officer who should have been removed from policing before he ever landed in St. Ann.

But the full story of this case shows how forcefully systems and institutions still function to protect police. Though officers testified against Ellis Brown III eventually, they did not come forward to report him. If two St. Louis activists had not witnessed the crime and pursued it, nothing would have happened. When approached, the bank that held incriminating video refused to turn it over to citizens. The FBI did take up this cause, though it had to overcome a history of suppressing dissent to convince one activist/witness to speak with them.

We need to end police policies which allow for unnecessary car chases like the one in this case. We need to insist on the active responsibility of police to report misconduct. We need private institutions to recognize their responsibility to make footage of public events public. We need to fully fund Missouri’s Police Officers Standards and Training investigators to create the capacity to end the “muni shuffle.” We need to “defund” ineffective internal police accountability systems and give those functions to civilian authorities. And we need to shut down whole police departments when they show us who they truly are.

John Chasnoff • University City

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