A St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigation has prompted two elected officials to pledge inquiries into disclosures that some St. Louis-area police departments use uncertified officers or fail to report allegations of misconduct. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch has begun a review of whether the assignment of undertrained volunteers to real police duties violated the law.
Missouri Auditor Claire McCaskill will send staff members to review documents at the state Department of Public Safety to make sure it has been monitoring discipline properly.
In a series of stories last week, the Post-Dispatch reported that dozens of reserve or auxiliary officers without proper state certification were writing traffic tickets, making arrests, and responding to emergency calls in various suburbs. More than a dozen police departments in both Missouri and Illinois use uncertified reserves. Most say these volunteers perform only permitted duties, such as directing traffic and working court security.
The newspaper documented several cases in which police officers were fired or forced to resign for misconduct, yet the allegations were never reported to state officials who control the officers’ licenses.
“Lack of oversight on the part of the state – or pure absence of standards – raises important public questions that require answers,” McCaskill said. “This [Post-Dispatch] investigative expose serves as yet another important wake-up call for government officials at both the local and state level.”
Members of the Missouri Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission expect more discussion about disparities shown in quality of police service in the St. Louis region. “Law enforcement has been trying to address some of these concerns for years, but the money is never there,” said Franklin County Sheriff Gary Toelke, a commission member. “”It would be nice to have standards to professionalize police in Missouri.”
State officials considered establishing a voluntary accrediting program several years ago, Toelke said, but the commission met harsh opposition from police chiefs. “There was criticism by law enforcement agencies that the POST was getting involved too much in police business,” he said.