Fox Files: Officer warned St. Louis jail leaders about security problems before the riot

FOX Files

ST. LOUIS – An email sent to correction leaders on Dec. 10, 2020, and recently obtained by FOX 2, reveals a security warning officers say was ignored.

On Feb. 6, we watched as St. Louis Justice Center inmates took control of the fourth floor of the facility for more than six hours. They not only left their cells but also breached the area which is supposed to be a secure safety zone for officers.

FOX 2 spoke with officers both past and present who say they’ve tried warning senior leaders a riot was coming.

One current officer, who did not want to be identified, said “There are certain inmates that will let you know what they are going to do.” The officer added, “When (the inmates) said they were going to riot the day before the Super Bowl, there was still nothing done.”

Both officers and inmates FOX Fox 2 that locks can be compromised by stuffing latch plates with paper. The latch never fully engages and it just takes something like a card to slide in the gap and open the door.

“They could be running out with knives, so this is a security concern, not only for the detainees but for the officers as well,” former inmate Eric Ware said.

Ware said inmates make their own devices that work like a key.

“People usually use a pop bottle,” he said. “You cut the pop bottle here, cut it there, and you have a strip. Then you sand it down and you just stick it right into the lock.”

Officers say computer monitors alert them when a lock is compromised.

“On your panel, if you have a red mark sticking out, you know you have something wrong with that door,” one officer said. “It’s showing that it is not secure.”

Both inmates and officers say the problem can be solved but that the jail won’t act. One solution is simple – clean out the latch plates.

FOX 2 obtained an email from an officer demanding that safety action.

On Dec. 10, the officer wrote, “Upon entering the unit, I recognized that 16 doors were showing unsecured.”

The email says the officer in charge refused to do security checks and fix the problem.

Jail Commissioner Dale Glass responded: “I am forwarding your email to your supervisor for investigation. I will check with them to learn their findings. I will have someone get back to you soon.”

The complaining officer reports hearing nothing more from the commissioner as the locks became a bigger problem.

When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said they would not comment on pending litigation or investigations.

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