St. Louis police officers to get body cameras by end of November – so what took so long?

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ST LOUIS, MO – In a racially and emotionally charged area of our country that has generated more than its share of news stories, it appears that St. Louis police officers will finally get long-awaited body cameras.

The Telegraph reported that most St Louis officers will be wearing the new cameras by the end of November.

Critics have long wondered why officers in this large city don’t wear body cameras. Most municipalities are using them, even smaller towns and boroughs, so one can only surmise that social justice advocates and District Attorney Kim Gardner, may have prohibited the use of these valuable tools. 

Irony shows us that groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the NAACP screamed loudly for police accountability, demanding that departments spend massive amounts of money to acquire these cameras and their support systems, all to keep cops in check. 

However, these cameras show some citizens’ true colors and are very detrimental for those breaking the law. They most often exonerate police rather than sustain complaints against them.

In fact, some jurisdictions have stopped using them or severely restricted their use to certain circumstances.

The initial cost for the camera program is $5.8 million. The systems will eventually have unique features like automatic system on and targeting when a weapon or taser is drawn, or when a patrol vehicle’s lights are activated.

Birmingham, Alabama police recently upgraded their body camera system with a $7.4 million improvement program that now includes live feeds back to police headquarters.

The new system allows senior police leadership to view real-time police contact action and allow for direct input while incidents are occurring. This direct feed also allows for expanded video footage for court cases.

It is obvious that body cameras have become essential to law enforcement for many reasons; they can exonerate an officer accused of dereliction of duty or abuses, yet also serve as strong evidence to prove criminal activity and convict suspects.

Mayor Randal Woodfin of Birmingham is obviously supportive of the upgrades:

“Any time we have police interaction and we can decrease the ‘he said, she said,’ and not only have body cams, but dashboard cams. It’s an opportunity to see interaction between an officer and a member of the community.”

Deputy Chief of Police Allen Treadaway views the upgrades as another way to increase accountability:

“Years ago, the community demanded that we have body cameras. It’s something that has worked very well for the community and accountability and it’s something I think is much needed for the community.”    

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Guess who is involved?  Kim Gardner.

April 20, 2020

ST. LOUIS, MO– A man who repeatedly shot another man during an altercation has been released and the charges dropped, despite video footage of the entire incident that St. Louis Police Officers Association (POA) President Jeff Roorda called “gruesome.”

It was reported that the violent incident occurred at the intersection of Sarah and Lindell in St. Louis on April 10. A bystander took a video of the event from an apartment window.

Evidently, an argument ensued after a vehicle accident where a man yelled at another man and a woman. The man then pulled a gun and fired at the other man, striking him several times, hitting him in the back, shoulder, and stomach.

Roorda was surprised to learn that the shooter was released the next day. Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office (yes, that Kim Gardner) stated that the POA shouldn’t have commented on the shooting and release, saying that the shooting was in self-defense, despite no other gun being visible in the video.

Gardner’s office said in a statement:

“The police brought the case citing self-defense. We have requested further evidence and will evaluate whether or not to issue charges once we have all the information.

“It is unfortunate that the police union has inserted themselves in this case when all the facts are not known.”

The POA responded via Facebook:

“Kim Gardner’s claim that police brought the case and cited self-defense is patently false.

“So not only is she opening the doors to the jails in the middle of a [pandemic] she is refusing to prosecute people who shoot unarmed people.”

Roorda reaffirmed his position, stating that the police had conducted a thorough investigation and there was plenty of evidence with which to charge the shooter.

This was certainly not the first time Kim Gardner’s office has done something controversial.

St. Louis’s Riverfront Times reported last September that Kim Gardner dropped a one-word Tweet:

“Exactly.”

The Times reported:

“Gardner’s terse message of approval came in the context of a lengthy thread from St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green, who had sought to connect that day’s fatal police shooting of a 28-year-old black man, Cortez Shepherd, with a larger argument about whether police should ever be able to use the mere suspicion of marijuana possession as ‘probable cause’ to initiate a confrontation with a suspect.”

A city circuit attorney stating that marijuana possession shouldn’t be grounds for contact by police.  As a result, the suspect fought with police and produced a weapon and was shot.

Gardner also cried racism and had a plethora of bandwagon-jumpers join her as she complained about unfair treatment by city and state officials. 

A long-standing police rights group threw support behind Gardner, as reported by ABC News:

“The Ethical Society of Police, created in 1972 to combat racism in the department, also voiced support for embattled St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who filed a lawsuit this month against the city and its police union alleging a coordinated, racist conspiracy to drive her from office.”

City officials and the St. Louis Police Officers Association called Gardner’s lawsuit “meritless.”

Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association who was named as a defendant in Gardner’s lawsuit, said in response:

“Gardner essentially claims that her critics have conspired together to prevent her from doing her job as a prosecutor. Nothing could be further from the truth. My police officers and I want her to do her job.”

Police officers have claimed that Gardner interfered in several traffic stops and investigations, using her position and playing the “race card” to try to muscle cases or traffic incidents involving her black friends out of the hands of police.

This past January, KMOV4 TV in Missouri aired a video segment that directly contradicted Garner’s claim that she was unfairly targeted and harassed by police. 

She had been driving her vehicle at night with no headlights on and claimed that she’d been held for more than 15 minutes during the stop.  She claimed that it was an effort by police to intimidate her – the video reported showed only a 6-minute traffic stop.

Attorney sues police over “racist” traffic stop. New video shows she lied about what happened.

It’s the latest in the narrative fueling the negative attitude toward police across the country, making every day heroes out to be racist bigots.

In St. Louis, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner (who is black) was pulled over for driving without headlights on. Simply to “intimidate” and harass her. Never mind that it was dark out and no one could see who she was prior to pulling her over. Or the fact that she was, you know, breaking the law and driving in an unsafe manner.

Gardner claimed:

“I was stopped for no lights but held for more than 15 minutes.  I still don’t know the reason why.”

St. Louis police officers to get body cameras by end of November - so what took so long?
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said she was pulled over as an “intimidation factor” to stop reform from happening. (KMOV Broadcast Screenshot)

Convenient that this person, a Circuit Attorney, who is familiar with laws particularly as they pertain to police officers, used the number 15 as her benchmark for complaint.

Here’s why that sparks my interest: The Supreme Court has upheld that officers may detain drivers for a “reasonable” amount of time during traffic stops. That “reasonable” standard has generally been described by courts as “about 15 minutes.”

Gardner was already in the process of suing the City and the police department for racism.  She used that benchmark number knowing that’s what would get the attention of the courts.

Surveillance footage of the traffic stop, however, is not consistent with Gardner’s claim.  A local news station, KMOV4, obtained real time surveillance of the contact and reported the stop, in its entirety, was just over 6 minutes long.

To include the time spent dealing with one of Gardner’s coworkers who showed up on scene and engaged with the officer would not be accurate.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association Fraternal Order of Police business manager Jeff Roorda said that the officer conducting the stop didn’t realize Gardner was the driver of the vehicle in question. 

Additionally, Roorda said:

“One of her investigators interfered with the traffic stop, tried to intimidate the officer.  I would have arrested him. You can’t just show up and interfere with a traffic stop.”

KMOV4 reached out to attempt an interview with Gardner and received the following statement from her office:

“Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner disputes the facts shared by the police and police union in regards to being pulled over on December 24.

“The events of the night in question are worthy of serious attention, and as such, we will not address Mr. Roorda’s incorrect account of what transpired.

“We will note that Mr. Roorda’s dismissive attitude and willingness to publicly comment on such a matter without taking the time to gather credible information regarding the events is unfortunate.

“This serves as yet another example of the biased rhetoric that made legal action necessary against the SLPOA police union.”

Gardner’s incorrect timeline of the incident, as well as the incorrect date of the incident (her office’s first email said the incident was on Dec. 23, but sent a second email correcting the date to Dec. 24.

Surveillance footage and police say it was actually on the 23. It begs the question of her sobriety as well as her sanity, which was already in question.

Gardner is standing by her racism claim, despite the facts presented to her after the fact.  In Gardner’s words, she has since filed an “unprecedented federal civil rights lawsuit.” 

In it, she accuses the City, the police union, Roorda, and several other players of a “coordinated and racist conspiracy” to force her out of office. Gardner has said that she has the support of other “progressive” prosecutors.

Gardner claims in her lawsuit that the City has a “long history of racial inequality and prejudice in its criminal justice system generally, and within its police force particularly.”

She says that she was elected to correct the racism, but the police and other named parties “have mobilized to thwart these efforts,” including “the unprecedented appointment of a white, ethically conflicted Special Prosecutor.”

Gardner continued:

“The Ku Klux Klan Act [of 1871] was adopted to address precisely this scenario: a racially motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s efforts to ensure equal justice under law for all.

“This is about the will of the people being silenced by a concerted effort to stop reform in the city of St. Louis, and this has to be addressed. 

“This is saying, ‘No more are we going to let the powerful few who want to hold onto the status quo prevent an elected prosecutor from doing her job.’”

I told you her sanity was in question.

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