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Wellston police forced to buy their own guns and bullets

6:43 PM, Jul 10, 2013   |    comments
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By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter

WELLSTON, Mo. (KSDK) - The Wellston police chief and some of his officers claim the city's mayor is handcuffing them from doing their jobs. They say Mayor Linda Whitfield's actions are threatening public safety.

The heated controversy is now at a boiling point in this north St. Louis County community because someone leaked police interrogation video to the I-Team and other reporters in an attempt to show the police are corrupt.

The internal video shows a convicted drug trafficker handcuffed in an interrogation room. Stephanie Douglas is shown yelling at the officer and standing up in an aggressive manner. The officer says he gave her several warnings to calm down and then he pepper sprayed her. While the officer says he was doing his job, Douglas said she was a victim of police brutality.

Outraged with the officer's conduct, the mayor's office sent a certified letter to the police officer's home saying Officer Michael Weaver is on suspension until further notice. The letter was unsigned. Typically, it's the police chief that has the authority to discipline officers, but in Wellston, the rules appear different.

Officer Weaver, who served the country as a marine, now serves his community. He appealed his suspension. Ultimately, the city council agreed, but did not refund his lost pay.

"My whole thing is to try to bring the Wellston police department to a level where our residents and the general public respect the department," said Wellston Police Chief G.T. Walker.

But the chief says he is handcuffed by Mayor Whitfield. The chief says she won't allow him to have access to standard crime fighting items like, police interrogation videos.

He says she won't fund money for bullet proof vests or pay his officers a living wage.

Officer Michael Weaver the ex marine had to purchase his own uniform at a cost of $75. He also had to buy his own gun belt and handcuffs at a cost of $600, and his own gun and bullets which cost $849.

All of this, to protect one of the most dangerous cities in the metro region, for $11.96 per hour, with no benefits. That's right. If he gets hurt on the job, he's on his own in terms of hospital bills.

Mayor Whitfield did not return our calls but Tuesday said she would be happy to discuss the bullet proof vests and other issues with the chief. But, her main focus now is the pepper spray incident.

At 7 p.m. there is a closed door emergency city council meeting. We're told if the mayor tries to fire officer Weaver she would not have the votes to succeed.

Tuesday we also asked viewers to weigh in on the incident. We asked if you thought this video showed a case of police abuse or of a citizen abusing police. By a two to one margin, the vast majority of you thought the officer did the right thing.


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