(CBS News/AP) -- Top prosecutors from across the country are expected to gather in St. Louis Tuesday to expose what they say are coordinated and racist efforts to block criminal justice reform. They're supporting the city's chief prosecutor, Kim Gardner, who filed an unprecedented federal lawsuit Monday night against her own city and its main police union.
Gardner claims she's being forced out. The union called the lawsuit "the last act of a desperate woman."
Gardner is the first African-American circuit attorney in St. Louis, elected two years after the protests and unrest in Ferguson. She and other black female prosecutors from seven states say their hands have been tied as they've tried to fix tensions between officers and communities of color.
"This is not about a single case or issue facing the city of St. Louis prosecutor. This is the fair administration of justice," Gardner told CBS News' Jeff Pegues in an interview first seen on "CBS This Morning."
Gardner's lawsuit alleges civil rights violations as well as violations of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871. Gardner is black. The named defendants are white.
The lawsuit names the city of St. Louis, the St. Louis Police Officers Association, its business manager, Jeff Roorda, and Gerard Carmody, a special prosecutor who indicted an investigator hired by Gardner. It also names Carmody’s son and daughter, who helped in his investigation, and a former police officer who sued over Gardner’s use of private attorneys related to Carmody’s investigation.
In her lawsuit, Gardner cites St. Louis’ “long history of racial inequality and prejudice in its criminal justice system generally, and within its police force particularly.” She said she was elected to change that, but that the police union and others “have mobilized to thwart these efforts,” including “the unprecedented appointment of a white, ethically conflicted Special Prosecutor” in an effort to oust Gardner.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association, which represents 1,300 law enforcement personnel in the city, called the suit "frivolous and without merit."
“The City Of St. Louis vehemently denies what it considers to be meritless allegations levied against it by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. The City fully expects to be vindicated once this case is adjudicated in a court of law," a statement from Krewson's office read.