St. Louis's first black chief prosecutor sues police union and city alleging racism

St. Louis's first black chief prosecutor sues police union and city alleging racism
© Getty Images

Kim Gardner, the first black circuit attorney for St. Louis, sued the city and the St. Louis Police Department’s union Monday, alleging racial discrimination that has impeded her from doing her job as prosecutor.

Gardner sued under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, a Reconstruction-era law granting the federal government sweeping powers to crack down on white supremacist groups like the eponymous terror organization.

Gardner, one of several reformist prosecutors and district attorneys elected on platforms of rolling back “tough on crime” policies, alleges in her complaint that a “broad campaign of collusive conduct” has hindered her from plans to “redress the scourge of historical inequality and rebuild trust in the criminal justice system among communities of color.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The Ku Klux Klan Act was adopted "to address precisely this scenario: a racially-motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s efforts to ensure equal justice under law for all,” she added. “The stakes are high. This case cries out for federal enforcement.”

Gardner’s office has created an “exclusion list” of police officers not considered reliable witnesses and, like many prosecutors elected on similar platforms, done away with most low-level marijuana prosecutions.

However, she alleges, her office has been actively undermined by city and police officials, when she proposed to create an independent review body to probe police-involved killings.

Her proposal was prompted by an incident involving a then-St. Louis police officer who was acquitted of murder after fatally shooting a black driver. The former policeman reportedly told another officer he was “going to kill this mother f-----.”

Her proposal, she claimed, was sunk by the St. Louis Police Officers Association announcing major reservations, after which, she said, city officials abandoned the idea “due in significant part to the SLPOA’s opposition.”

The police union denounced the lawsuit as frivolous and said it was deliberately timed to coincide with a deposition in relation to William Tisaby, a former FBI investigator her office tapped to probe criminal allegations against former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R).

ADVERTISEMENT

Gardner’s office indicted Greitens on felony invasion of privacy charges in February 2018 but dropped the charges shortly after Greitens’s attorneys alleged Tisaby had perjured himself during a deposition. Tisaby was charged with perjury the next June.

“This lawsuit is not a coincidence,” the union said in its statement.