internal affairs

11 St. Louis County Police Officers Reprimanded

ST. LOUIS COUNTY – Eleven St. Louis County police officers assigned to patrol MetroLink were issued written reprimands — some for loitering in Metro security offices and others for covering security cameras in the offices.

In a news release issued Friday, county police also said several other allegations of misconduct were determined to be “unfounded or not substantiated.” The internal affairs probe of the Metrolink unit transpired over a 16-week period.

Twelve reprimands were issued, with two going to one officer, reported St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The officers’ names were not released. The reprimands concern six incidents between December 2015 and last July at MetroLink’s Clayton and North Hanley stations.

A screenshot from surveillance video is used as the feature image of this article. In the photo an unidentified St. Louis County police officer (image intentionally blurred) appears to be placing a sheet of paper in front of a security camera at the North Hanley security office at the MetroLink station. Metro records obtained by the Post-Dispatch indicate there have been eight such incidents. (Photo via Metro Department of Public Safety.)

County Police Chief Jon Belmar initiated the investigation in July after Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger published a series of reports alleging misconduct by officers.

The series was based largely on documents and videos obtained from MetroLink through a public records request.

The series appeared at a time in which county officials said they had doubled the number of officers patrolling the transit system to deal with a spike in violent crime.

Belmar submitted the report last week to the county Police Board.

The police chief said in a statement that he launched the investigation because county officers were and should be held to a very high standard.

“This department has never shied away from discipline when appropriate,” the chief said.

Police Board President Roland Corvington said in a statement that the board found the investigation “to be thorough and conducted to logical conclusion.”

County Executive Steve Stenger declined to comment. Moreover, other officials with the Bi-State Development Agency, which oversees Metro did not believe a public comment was appropriate.

Bi-State “will not comment on county police personnel matters,” agency spokeswoman Patti Beck said.

County Council Chairman Sam Page said he had yet to see the news release.

However, he believed there remained a need for an outside investigation, as called for in a resolution passed by the council in July.

According to the county police news release, officers received reprimands for loitering or “spending more time than acceptable” in a security office in two incidents.

In three others, officers were reprimanded after admitting they covered cameras “for privacy reasons,” the release said.

In another camera incident, police said “the involved officer” was reprimanded after he admitted covering one “for the purpose of putting on his ballistic vest.” Authorities said the officer forgot to remove the paper from the camera when finished.

However, Sgt. Shawn McGuire, a county police spokesman, said in an interview that investigators were unable to find any evidence of the officer sleeping there, as had been alleged by a Metro information technology employee.

Metro refused to provide the name of the employee reported to have made the allegation, according to McGuire.

In all, McGuire said, 12 allegations of misconduct were investigated and six resulted in reprimands.

One of the unfounded allegations originated on Nov. 15, 2016. In that case, an off-duty municipal police officer emailed two pictures to Metro that showed that a county police officer who was supposed to be patrolling MetroLink was instead at a gun store in the Affton area.

During the time the officer was at the gun shop, he received a call to transport and book a prisoner. It took him more than 30 minutes to get there, according to call records.

County police said the investigation found that two officers were present at the gun store but with “supervisor approval.” They were dispatched to buy raffle tickets for a benefit for the family of Officer Blake Snyder, who was killed in the line of duty. The store, police said, was near “Metro property.”

Police said the officers responded and transported the prisoner in question within 22 minutes, not more than 30.

Police on Friday also said investigators were unable to reach Michael Sorkin, a former Post-Dispatch reporter who posted on social media that he found four county officers doing nothing in a darkened security office last June 5. Messenger recounted Sorkin’s experience in one column.

Police said Friday that the officers involved “indicated they were eating dinner” and they turn the lights off for safety reasons.

Sorkin told the Post-Dispatch on Friday that he had never received the email message that police said they had sent. He called ridiculous police claims that they couldn’t find him.

“And the proof of what I reported is there for anyone to see,” Sorkin said. “All the investigators have to do is go to the MetroLink platforms and ask the same question I did: Where are the county police who are supposed to be there on patrol?”

(Photo via Metro Department of Public Safety)

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