News 4 Investigates: Are bad police officers being held accountable in St. Louis?

News 4 Investigates: Are bad police officers being held accountable in St. Louis?
Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 5:45 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - The conviction of a former St. Louis officer in federal court last week was applauded by some people as a major victory for people fighting for officer accountability. But he is not the only former St. Louis police officer who has been charged in recent years.

“I think we are seeing a tidal shift nationally,” said St. Louis Law School Professor Anders Walker.

Walker says it is rare police officers are charged in the first place, but convictions are even harder to secure.

“In the past, it’s been almost impossible,” he said.

That’s why he says he was surprised Thursday, when a federal jury returned a guilty verdict against former officer Dustin Boone for the beating of an undercover Black detective in 2017.

“I think the public now are intensely scrutinizing the police and I think there’s a lot of political pressure, this case was interesting because it was a federal case,” Walker said.

News 4 Investigates wanted to know about other cases involving local police officers.

In recent years in St. Louis, more than a dozen police officers have been charged with crimes ranging from the murder of a colleague to more minor crimes, like stealing a cell phone. In state court, charged by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office, our review found four former officers who were convicted of crimes in recent years. One was Lori Wozniak who gave two handcuffed men a “rough ride” in a transport van, after they said obscene things about her.

But three other officers were found not guilty of their charges, like Adam Feaman, seen in a video hitting a person. The judge who decided the case called it “reasonable” to make the arrest. Prosecutors also dismissed charges against two former officers after they were accused of an unlawful shooting a south St. Louis bar. Federal prosecutors tended to have a slightly better track record, with five officers being convicted in court in recent years, with one acquittal and one case ending in a hung jury.

“We tend to know about the ones that get a lot coverage,” said Walker.

Walker says many instances of officers being scrutinized never make it to trial at all. For instance, no officer has been on trial for shooting anyone in the City of St. Louis since the trial of Jason Stockley back in 2017. Data obtained by News 4 showed that there were 25 officer-involved shootings from 2018 to 2020. But the Circuit Attorney’s Office is refusing to disclose how many of those are still under investigation or deemed, claiming they are closed records.

Law enforcement must be professional, they must adhere to high standards of conduct, because otherwise, the public will lose faith. There are several former officers in the St. Louis area who are still awaiting trial right now. Another way in which officers are held accountable is a loss of the licenses. Around the State of Missouri, since 2018, nearly 200 police officers have surrendered their license or had them revoked.