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Officers reprimanded for covering surveillance camera

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Four St. Louis County police officers have been reprimanded for covering a surveillance camera.

You may remember the controversy that began a 16-week internal affairs investigation.

It began back in July when videos came out showing St. Louis County police officers covering a work room surveillance camera.

The videos were part of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch column which raised questions about whether county officers were doing a good job policing MetroLink. Chief Jon Belmar said they were doing a good job, but he ordered an investigation.

With the help and guidance of a citizen review board, county police internal affairs reviewed 10 allegations. In four cases, the board decided to give written reprimands. The officers said they covered the camera to change clothes, but they still got reprimands because their supervisor had warned them to stop.

“That pretty much shows the officer that was the wrong thing to do,” said Sgt. Shawn McGuire, a county police spokesman. “One thing to remember, these are not criminal, covering a camera is not criminal, that’s a policy violation.”

Six other cases involved claims that officers weren’t doing their jobs or were not where they were supposed to be. Internal affairs did not find those to be true.

Read the entire investigative summary below:

The St. Louis County Police Department’s Bureau of Professional Standards has completed a 16-week investigation into allegations of officer misconduct within the Metrolink Unit. The majority of those weeks, approximately 12, were spent in an effort to obtain the requested information needed to conduct a thorough investigation. In total, 10 allegations were brought to the Police Department’s attention through publication by a local media outlet. After the investigation was completed, six of the 10 allegations of misconduct were unfounded or not substantiated. The other four resulted in disciplinary action. While Chief Jon Belmar ordered the internal investigation be conducted, the civilian oversight board in charge of the Department, the Board of Police Commissioners, was frequently updated of the progress of the investigation as it evolved.

Below are the allegations and findings of each investigation initiated. They are organized chronologically.

An allegation was made that on December 1, 2015, an officer was sleeping on duty and covered up the Metro camera located within the North Hanley security office. This office is used by policemen assigned to the Metrolink Unit to monitor security cameras, hold briefings, write reports, and it also serves as a break room and locker room. The involved officer admitted covering the camera for the purpose of putting on his ballistic vest and forgot to remove the paper from the camera when finished. The result of that investigation was a written reprimand to the involved officer.

An allegation was made that on February 17, 2016, officers were loitering around the Clayton Metro security office and an officer was at the Clayton Metro security office when he informed dispatch that he was present at the Maplewood station platform. The investigation found officers were spending more time than acceptable in the Clayton Metro security office. The result of the investigation was a written reprimand to two involved officers. As for the officer that informed dispatch he was present at the Maplewood station platform, detectives could not locate any audio recordings from Metro's Dispatch Center that confirmed the allegation and the officer was not captured on video at the Clayton Metro security office. There were, however, three officers present on the Maplewood station platform during this time, just not the officer accused. This portion of the case is not sustained.

An allegation was made that on March 1, 2016, an officer called out at the Richmond Heights station platform, but that surveillance video does not show him there as reported. Records obtained from Metro alleged that a security guard made a complaint. However, the investigation found the officer's vehicle was indeed captured on Metro's surveillance footage entering the property and remaining on the parking lot where the platform could easily be monitored. Furthermore, the security guard who Metro alleged had made the complaint denied to investigators ever filing a complaint on the officer. This case is unfounded.

An allegation was made that on November 15, 2016, officers were conducting personal business at Mid America Arms while on duty and out of their assigned sectors. Further allegations stated that it took over 30 minutes for officers to respond and transport a prisoner from the Richmond Heights Metro station. The investigation found two officers to be present at Mid America Arms, however, with supervisor approval. They stated they were there to purchase raffle tickets for a benefit for fallen Officer Blake Snyder. The store was near a Metro property and officers were there for a short amount of time. Raffle tickets that were purchased were verified at the store. The allegation of taking 30 minutes to arrive at the Richmond Heights Metro Station contradicts Metro's own records that show officers responded and transported the prisoner to intake within 22 minutes. These cases are unfounded.

An allegation was made that on January 19, 2017, officers did not assist a Metro Security officer with removing a combative subject. The involved security guard was interviewed by investigators and stated to investigators that he never filed a complaint on a St. Louis County Police officer. He further stated he could only recall one time in which he had a combative subject and a St. Louis County officer assisted him with the situation and he was very happy with the results. This case is unfounded.

An allegation was made that on February 9, 2017, an officer covered up the camera located within the North Hanley Metro security office. The involved officer admitted covering the camera for privacy reasons. The end result of the investigation is a written reprimand to the involved officer.

An allegation was made that on June 5, 2017, a source who was identified as a retired journalist found four St. Louis County Police officers sitting in the dark around 6:20 p.m. at the Clayton Metro security office not doing anything. Investigators attempted to contact the retired journalist, but were unsuccessful. He did not respond to an email request for an interview. The officers told investigators they recalled the incident and stated the individual was very accusatory and rude. Officers indicated they were eating dinner when he quickly entered the private office. Officers stated they turn the lights off often for safety reasons (back lighting). The case is unfounded.

An allegation was made that on June 25, 2017, the camera located within the North Hanley Metro security office was covered up from 9:58 p.m. to 3:55 p.m. on June 26, 2017. The involved officer admitted to covering the camera for privacy reasons. The result of the case was a written reprimand to the involved officer.

An allegation was made that on July 4, 2017, an officer covered up the camera located within the North Hanley Metro security office and officers were loitering while two calls for service were pending and not handled.

According to Metro, this complaint was initiated by an unidentified, at the time, Federal Air Marshall’s Service (FAMS) officer that was assigned to the Metrolink Detail for the 4th of July. The FAMS officer allegedly complained that officers were not patrolling the transit system. The FAMS officer was later identified by investigators and interviewed. The FAMS officer denied making a complaint to Metro, and his supervisor was also interviewed. The FAMS supervisor indicated that no FAMS officer filed any complaint. While information from Metro’s records was contradictory to investigators’ findings, six officers received written reprimands for loitering in the office.

An allegation was made that on July 5, 2017, an officer covered up the camera located within the North Hanley Metro security office and officers were not patrolling their assigned zones. Officers admitted to investigators that they covered the camera for privacy reasons. The result of the investigation was a written reprimand to the involved officers. Records from Metro further alleged that a suicidal subject call was pending on the Skinker Metro platform during this time. The investigation revealed that the suicidal subject call was not dispatched to County officers; it was dispatched to the St. Louis Police Department. The call was ultimately handled by the University City Police Department since the subject left the platform before the arrival of St. Louis City officers.

This portion of the case is unfounded.

Chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, Roland Corvington, stated: “The Board was presented the findings and circumstances of the investigation conducted by the Bureau of Professional Standards. The Board found the internal investigation to be thorough and conducted to logical conclusion.”

Chief Jon Belmar stated, “I initiated this internal investigation because the officers of the St. Louis County Police Department are, and should be, held to a very high standard. This Department has never shied away from discipline when appropriate.” Chief Belmar further stated, “I appreciate the work of the investigators assigned to the Bureau of Professional Standards who were able to identify appropriate discipline and provide context for those cases determined to be unfounded. Officers assigned to the Metrolink Unit remain committed to ensure the safety and security of those that ride the light rail system.”