DOWNTOWN – St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says she is banning nearly two dozen police officers tied to the racist Facebook post scandal first reported by The NorthSider/SouthSider and MetroSTL.com.
Gardner has butted heads with police several times over her “exclusion list” of officers she will not allow to present evidence in cases. In this instance, she says officers who were named in the probe by the Plain View Project have demonstrated in their public statements that they can’t be unbiased in their administration of justice.
“Police integrity is at the core of the community’s confidence in the criminal justice system,” Gardner said. “When a police officer’s integrity is compromised in this manner, it compromises the entire criminal justice system and our overall ability to pursue justice. After careful examination of the underlying bias contained in those social media posts, we have concluded that this bias would likely influence an officer’s ability to perform his or her duties in an unbiased manner.”
Refusing to allow an officer to present evidence makes them far less effective on the street, because another officer who is not on the list must be present for them to make an arrest.
With the addition of these latest officers to the list, there are now 59 members of the St. Louis police force from whom the local prosecutor will not accept testimony. Of the 22 latest additions, seven have been permanently barred, while the others will be put through a review process agreed upon by the circuit attorney’s office and police.
A number of cases involving the seven officers permanently banned could be affected by the move.
In a release, a spokesperson for the circuit attorney’s office said, “Cases currently under review, in which they are an essential witness, will be refused. Similarly, search warrants in which they are involved will not be signed or approved.”
There was no word on just how many cases might be affected.
With 59 officers on the exclusion list, that means 4.5% of the officers on the St. Louis Police Department are now unable to present cases to or testify for the city’s top prosecutor.
The contents of the posts and the identities of the St. Louis officers were first revealed in an exclusive series of articles in The Northsider and The Southsider beginning June 2. A Philadelphia-based group, The Plain View Project, scanned tens of thousands of Facebook posts by officers in eight police departments nationwide, including St. Louis, using an algorithm designed to look for racist, bigoted, or violent posts.
The Northsider/Southsider analysis of the data found that 461 Facebook posts by 22 current and 21 retired St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officers included Confederate flags, racist remarks, images of police beating protestors with captions like “I’m going to serve and protect the s**t out of you”, Islamophobic comments, and several accounts that repeatedly used symbols and statements directly linked to organized white supremacist groups and armed anti-government “militia” organizations.