ST. LOUIS – The top prosecutor in St. Louis has established what it calls a “white list” of 28 city police and the review of all open cases in which these officers were essential witnesses, a spokeswoman for the circuit attorney’s office said Thursday.
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner does not explain why the officers were placed on the list, but said in a statement that it is of crucial importance for her office to have confidence in the accuracy and fairness of the oral and written reports of the police.”
“A police officer’s word, and the full truth of that word, is fundamentally necessary to doing the job. Therefore, a break in trust must be approached with deep concern,” Gardner said in the statement.
The move, first reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, drew an immediate reaction from the top law enforcement official. Attorney General Josh Hawley said that he was “deeply concerned,” though he wasn’t sure what authority his office had to intervene.
“We are exploring the possibilities,” Hawley said during a stop as part of his campaign for the U.S. Senate. Hawley is a Republican, Gardner is a Democrat.
Gardner, provided the St. Louis police department with the list of officers Tuesday, her spokesperson, Susan and Ryan said. Ryan also refused to say why the officers were on the list.
Police chief John Hayden said the department is looking for “legal guidance on how this affects the police division.”
“At this moment we are considering how best to proceed and what actions to take,” Hayden said in a statement.
But Ryan said Gardner’s office has had “in-depth conversations with the police about our concerns.”
Mayor Lyda Krewson, through her spokesperson refused to comment.
Ryan said the circuit attorney’s office is reviewing open cases, not to cases already reviewed. As a police officer on the list of exceptions is considered a non-essential witness, the case will still proceed, ” she said.
If the officer is the witness considered the greatest importance to the case, the case will be further evaluated to determine whether the case should be removed.
Ryan said prosecutors have an obligation to exclude witnesses who are not credible shall be considered.
Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, did not immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment, but told the Post-Dispatch of the union is “surprised and alarmed by this unexpected action by the Circuit Attorney’s office.”
Gardner was elected in 2016 and has a testy relationship with the police. Although her predecessor filed the charge, it was Gardner’s office that prosecuted former officer Jason Stockley, who was charged with murder in the death of a black suspect. The acquittal in September of last year, of Stockley, who is white, weeks of protests.
In June, Gardner had hundreds of traffic cases and nearly three dozen other cases, it is caused by a Missouri state trooper, citing concerns about his conduct in the traffic stop.
Hawley said he reached Gardner’s office for a statement.
“I don’t understand the reasons for this, and I can say that I am deeply concerned about this,” Hawley said. “Every community in this state deserves the protection of the law, the fair and equal protection of the law, and I am deeply concerned that this action will lead to criminals going free, unaccountable, and vulnerable populations are not getting the protection they deserve.”