It's the latest development in a battle to improve public trust in the justice system after a court found police officer Jason Stockley not guilty in the shooting death of Anthony Lamar Smith.
The St. Louis Police Officers' Association contends its internal investigation unit and not Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner should investigate police. It also says an outside attorney, namely the U.S. Attorney, should oversee investigations and any prosecutions in officer-involved shootings.
In a Facebook post that went up Tuesday, the union states investigations should remain with police.
The reason? The union says a special unit within the department uses best practices favored by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The post also cites "serious concerns as to the effectiveness of the circuit attorney's oversight" and recommends placing that oversight with the U.S. Attorney instead of Gardner’s office
Union business manager Jeff Roorda was not available for comment most of Thursday, but spoke with 5 On Your Side in September about the Circuit Attorney's involvement.
“We need this prosecutor to get out of the business of investigating police because she's not doing her job,” he said. Roorda went on to say, “the prosecutor’s office just sits on these cases. They won't ever clear our officers no matter how much evidence there is of their innocence.”
The Facebook post comes after repeated statements by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner that she wants to transfer investigations of officer-involved shootings from police to her office's oversight.
"People want accountability for officer-involved shooting cases that have divided our city and we need a viable solution," Gardner said earlier this week. Tuesday she told the city she wanted millions to create her own team of investigators.
But according to Washington University Law Professor Peter Joy, both local entities face conflict-of-interest concerns. Joy who teaches criminal justice explained how relying on outside law enforcement could restore public trust.
“Part of the reason to do that is for there to be an objective view and not any possibility of influence or allegiance or conflict of interest,” said Joy.
- The case for outside prosecutors
But Joy also contends that another way to improve trust in the system could be to bring in an outside prosecutor.
“The conflict can go both ways," Joy said. "So one can be a conflict where the prosecutor feels the allegiance to the police department or officer, or on the other hand the prosecutor feels like ‘I was elected to try to restore trust in the system and so I have more motivation to go after a police officer.’"
The Department of Justice "encourages policies that mandate the use of external and independent prosecutors in cases of police use of force resulting in death [and] officer-involved shootings resulting in injury or death."
The American Bar Association also emphasizes the importance of independent review in officer involved shooting cases and cites cities where investigations and prosecutions of police misconduct are handled by independent groups of investigators and prosecutors.
Federal legislation has been introduced in Congress that requires the use independent prosecutors to oversee the investigations into officer-involved shootings and to prosecute them if needed. H.R. 1870 requires the use of outside counsel for receipt of federal funds.
The NAACP endorses the use of independent prosecutors and the proposed bill.
The Circuit Attorney did not respond to our request until Friday, October 6, 2017. She did so by forwarding the following two documents:
Kim Gardner Boa Psc Comments on Scribd
San Fran Letter on Scribd