Metro-East cops may be keeping criminals out of jail -

Metro-East cops may be keeping criminals out of jail

Mayor Alvin Parks told me the city of East St. Louis still has eight police officers that are not considered "credible" witnesses by  Saint Clair County State's Attorney Bob Haida. Parks says the city tries to keep those cops from having key roles in major cases, and avoids letting them present reports to Haida. Haida, says he's seen a difference, but he described it as "not significant."

Those officers have many credibility issues, according to Haida, including criminal charges, internal affairs complaints about sexual assaults by officers and allegations they lied about evidence. There are two big concerns now about these cops. First, they continue to actively investigate crimes. Second, with the city looking at potentially huge layoffs, those officers could be forced into more important roles, which means the prosecutor will be more likely to dismiss their criminal cases.

East St. Louis has the biggest problem with police credibility, but Haida has had similar concerns about officers in at least a half dozen departments in recent years. This week he informed the village of Caseyville that officer Steve Epps has "substantial credibility issues," and that Haida believes "there is an increased possibility my office may decline to prosecute criminal cases in which the evidence is based solely, or in substantial part, on his testimony." Haida did not identify the issues in his letter. Village Attorney Duane Clark told me Epps will remain on the force.

Since he became State's Attorney Haida has sent Saint Clair County police departments letters about more than twenty police officers, including fifteen in East St. Louis. I contacted the offices of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney and St. Louis County Prosecutor, but they declined to identify any officers they had identified as not being credible witnesses.

Police credibility is one of the most important elements in law enforcement. Without it, it's much harder to prosecute criminals and help victims and their families find any sense of justice.



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