Alderman calls police officer 'a**hole,' requests discipline for conduct during traffic stop
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A local elected official got pulled over for speeding. But he says it’s what happened next that should land the officer in hot water.
St. Louis Alderman Joe Vaccaro says he was surprised to see blue lights last month near Jefferson on I-44. He says he was picked out because of his new high-profile truck with fancy tires.
“If I was going in a Porsche vs a Pinto, they would probably pick the Porsche out,” he said.
He says he pulled to a safe space, then waited a while.
“I got out of my car, and he said, ‘get back in your car,’ which I did. I followed that command,” said Vaccaro.
But his problem, he says, was with the officer’s conduct at his window.
“The guy is coughing all over me, with nowhere to run to. I asked to have him tested, and I asked him to be tested for COVID, and it looked like he had something going on,” Vaccaro said.
Aggravated, Vaccaro told the officer he should have his mask on.
“I told him I was going to talk to the Colonel and the Chief,” Vaccaro said.
“Were you trying to use your stance as a public official to get out of that ticket?” asked Chief Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager.
“No, not at all,” Vaccaro said.
Vaccaro ultimately got two tickets, one for doing 76 mph in a 60-mph zone and the other for no proof of insurance, which he says the officer inappropriately wrote him before he could show his insurance card.
“I think he’s just an a**hole,” said Vaccaro.
“No one can argue that you were an a**hole to him, could they?” asked Trager.
“I don’t think they could honestly, I would have to see the tape to tell you the truth,” said Vaccaro.
News 4 has been told there is dash camera video of the traffic stop and body camera video worn by the officer, too. But the police say it’s part of an ongoing investigation and won’t release a copy.
“I absolutely think it should be released,” said David Roland, a Sunshine Law expert and attorney.
Roland says the police certainly could release it so the public can see everyone’s actions.
“I think we need more access to these videos, not less and I think the sooner, the better,” Roland said.
“I am not so dumb as to know they don’t have a camera. So, I am not going to say anything too crazy,” said Vaccaro.
Vaccaro says again, he didn’t try to wiggle out of the ticket.
“I would be fine with that tape coming out because you’ll see how rude he was. Not disrespectful, just rude,” Vaccaro said.
And here’s where the story takes another turn. Vaccaro got a call that the officer had tested positive for COVID on a rapid test.
“What is the procedure for this? There has to be a procedure, that was my concern,” said Vaccaro.
And then later, he says he got another call, this time from Chief John Hayden.
The chief called and said Joe, ‘I will take care of that ticket, don’t worry about it,’ and I said, ‘Chief I am not worried about the ticket, I am upset about the mask,’” Vaccaro said.
Like any other citizen, he said he’ll just fight the ticket in court. A few days later, Vaccaro says the officer’s PCR test results ultimately came back negative, but Vaccaro said it was too late because he had already canceled a vacation. He intends to file a formal complaint against the officer.
The police sent a statement saying they would not comment on a personnel matter.
We also asked about the Chief’s offer to fix the ticket. The department said: “The ticket was not dismissed. However, we will not be commenting any further about this matter.”
Meanwhile, Vaccaro has also requested the video and says when he gets it, he will provide it to News 4 Investigates.
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