Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner wants her team to lead investigations of police shootings
St. Louis’ top prosecutor is asking the city for more than $1,000,000 to take the lead in investigating officer-involved shootings.
On Tuesday, speaking to the board of alderman's public safety committee, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner proposed a plan for her office to take the lead on all police shootings—fatal or non-fatal. The cost of Gardner's proposed plan would be $1.3 million.
"The St. Louis Police Department leading an investigation into the conduct of its employees is concerning," she said. "No one is above the law and we have to create a process that reflects that."
Gardner has asked the Board of Aldermen's Public Safety Committee for five investigators, five prosecutors and two support staff to investigate police shootings. This independent team would replace the department's force investigative unit. The investigative unit was formed in 2014 and currently looks into police shootings.
"Right now, the process we are using is not working," Gardner said.
The circuit attorney said her office has 25 open police shooting cases and the department hasn't turned over reports for 14 of them.
"They control the evidence, they control the investigation. Their methods of turning things over. That is at their discretion. That's why we need a new option."
Police shot and killed Gina Torres' son Isaiah Hammett in June. Officials after the incident said Hammett fired first, but his mother disagrees. She's on board with Gardner’s plan.
"I don't think it's right that police get to investigate their own shootings."
One of the purposes of Gardner’s proposed plan is making sure the investigations are fair and impartial, she said. She believes it could go a long way in rebuilding the public's trust.
"People want accountability for officer-involved shooting cases that have divided our city and we need a viable solution."
A spokesperson for the St. Louis Police Department refutes Gardner’s claims about the lack of reports and evidence turned over to her office. The department also said it hasn’t had a point of contact in the circuit attorney’s office in months.
The police department said it supports the recommendation of the Ferguson committee to appoint the Attorney General as a special prosecutor in use of force investigations. The unit will continue to investigate all officer-involved shootings, the spokesperson said.
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