EAST ST. LOUIS –(KMOX)–After last week’s sudden resignation of the police chief who pleaded guilty to federal charges, there may be more cops on the force under pressure to leave.
“We feel that there are some officers that will either be rehabilitated or may be called to actually relinquish their jobs,” said Mayor Alvin Parks.
Parks declined to say how many of the 43 officers now on the force are under review. But he says he discussed the problem earlier this month in his office with State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly. Kelly has complained publicly that officers in several Metro East police departments lack the “credibility” to testify before a jury and help prosecute a criminal case.
“If we simply say let’s get rid of the person, here comes the lawsuit,” Parks said, “If the person has a credibility issue based on criminal charges, charge the person and help us to move that person out of government service.”
Last week, charges were brought against East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Baxton. When confronted with evidence from a sting operation, Baxton quit and pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing evidence and of lying to federal investigators.
During the Baxton news conference, State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly complained that Metro East was becoming over run with murder and violence.
“We are looking at the development of a no-man’s land in certain parts of these communities where there is a complete lack of credible law enforcement,” said St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly, “and the people that live there, their safety is in peril.”
Kelly and U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton are calling for a new approach to law enforcement — either the creation of a new Metro-East police force or a takeover of existing departments by Illinois State Police.
Mayor Parks says he is open to more study on a regional police force, but he wants East St. Louis to maintain its own department.
“I want to make sure we keep our own police department,” Parks said, “But at the same time would look forward to and welcome any type of an augmentation that would take place.”
As to the allegation that East St. Louis is becoming a “no man’s land,” Parks says he believes he could walk from one end of town after nightfall and come out the other end alive.
“Absolutely, but at the same time I’ve got a built in advantage in that I know so many people.”
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