St. Louis County council members want an independent investigation into possible misconduct by county officers assigned to the MetroLink.
In a 5-1 vote, the St. Louis County Council voted to support an outside source heading up an investigation, rather than internal affairs, which St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar solidly stands behind.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a scathing investigative report that alleges county officers assigned to provide security for the MetroLink were sleeping on the job, loitering in their offices, and falsely reporting about where they were patrolling and when.
Councilwoman Hazel Erby said she supported the independent investigation because it was needed to help find the bad apples within the department.
“I support this resolution but it does not by any means mean that I do not have faith in our county police department,” Erby said. “When I first saw the police officers covering the cameras, I was upset and angry because a few officers painted a bad picture for our police force. I believe 95 percent of them are the best there is.”
Council member Sam Page, who sponsored the resolution, echoed Erby and said the allegations are serious enough that an independent investigation was needed.
“I too have the upmost respect for our county police officers and the job that they do,” Page said. “They do literally put their lives on the line and I also support our police chief and what he’s trying to do to take this department in the right direction. I do believe these allegations are serious and they do require an independent investigation. I look forward to following it as it proceeds.”
Even though the (non-binding) resolution was passed, it wasn’t made clear when one would start, who would conduct the investigation, and how much it would cost.
According to Page, all of these questions would be sorted out after he talked with St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar to see what options are available.
The one opposing vote came from Councilman Pat Dolan, who said that the St. Louis County Police Department would be better equipped to handle the investigation internally.
“I recognize that we should look into allegations but I think we would do that with any department in St. Louis County,” Dolan said. “I have the full confidence that their internal affairs will look into this and if they found out they need to go beyond that I have confidence they have enough integrity to seek assistance beyond that if they need to.”
It wasn’t just council members that were questioning police misconduct either.
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said since there’s been increased resources devoted to keeping the MetroLink safe, he was immediately alarmed at the allegations.
“I have some questions about the investigations. I learned about the allegations on Saturday, and along with everyone else I was immediately concerned,” Stenger said. “Particularly where we’ve devoted so many resources to try and make the lines safe — doubling the amount of officers from 22 to 44. I read it and I was pretty red-hot mad.”
Stenger said after he read about the allegations, he contacted St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar to see if there was an ongoing investigation into the matter.
“Through our conversation I asked him to conduct a thorough investigation and frankly he had already begun that process, immediately upon his reading of everything,” he said. “Some of the allegations he was reading for the first time, which is a little concerning as well, because you would think that there would be communication from Metro to the chief about these manners and he’s not reading about them for the first time in the newspaper.”
The St. Louis County Police Department confirms that the image of an officer taping a piece of paper over a camera lends that was published in The Post is from 2015, and that officer was transferred after the incident was reported. However, the department tells The Clayton Times that none of the other incidents were reported to them by the Metro, and that none of the incidents reported happened after additional funding was appropriated by the county for Metro safety.