The first black woman elected as St. Louis’ chief prosecutor is taking long-standing racial tensions between her office and the police department, to federal court. Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging a racist conspiracy to stop her from doing her job, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Gardner is suing the city of St. Louis, the St. Louis Police Officers Association and its longtime business manager, a former police officer who sued Gardner’s office, and private attorneys appointed as special prosecutors to investigate her office’s handling of the investigation of former Gov. Eric Greitens. “Gardner was elected in 2016 on a promise to redress the scourge of historical inequality and rebuild trust in the criminal justice system among communities of color,” says the lawsuit. “Unfortunately, entrenched interests … have mobilized to thwart these efforts through a broad campaign of collusive conduct.”
Gardner cited the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1871, to allege violations of her Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. “The Ku Klux Klan Act was adopted to address precisely this scenario: a racially-motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s efforts to ensure equal justice under law for all,” the lawsuit alleges. “The stakes are high. This case cries out for federal enforcement.” A spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, called Gardner’s lawsuit “meritless” and said the “city fully expects to be vindicated.” The lawsuit, Gardner said in an interview, “is going to set the tone that the people of St. Louis are not going to allow a select few to stop criminal justice reform. We will reform the system.” Gardner’s lawsuit is being financed by the legal advocacy fund of a Dallas-based nonprofit called Mothers Against Police Brutality.