ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – MetroLink security guards could face charges of impersonating a police officer, according to a letter sent to the head of the light rail line from St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch.
The letter, dated April 11, and obtained by KMOX News, reveals the strained relationship between McCulloch and MetroLink, after two recent deadly shootings along the light rail line.
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McCulloch warns Metro President and CEO John Nations that the transit agency has no authority to run its own police force.
“Bi-State has no authority to create a police department. Nor can Bi-State employ police officers except by contract with a valid law enforcement agency,” McCulloch writes Nations.
The letter complains that MetroLink security guards are wearing uniforms “remarkably similar to St. Louis County police uniforms,” and carrying identification cards indicating they are “commissioned as a law enforcement officer.”
“If this action does not cease immediately upon receipt of this notice, any Bi-State employee granting or attempting to grant a “commission” and any Bi-State employee impersonating a law enforcement officer does so at his or her own peril and this Office may take other action as appropriate.”
KMOX is awaiting a response from Nations to McCulloch’s letter and a similar missive sent by the head of the Missouri Department of Public Safety.
An April 11 letter from Department of Public Safety Director Charles Juden warns Nations that the transit agency can only employ peace officers through contracts with law enforcement agencies.
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“The commissioning of a peace officer in violation of Missouri law may jeopardize your agency’s eligibility to receive state or federal funds for the law enforcement, safety, or criminal justice purposes,” Juden writes Nations.
Earlier this week, KMOX reported on the same dispute erupting in correspondence between local police chiefs and MetroLink in the fall of 2015.
In a fall 2015 letter, the police chiefs of St. Louis city and county complained that MetroLink security guards were exceeding their authority on the trains.
The response from MetroLink’s Chief of Security, Richard Zott, asserted that MetroLink has authority under its Compact, authorized by Congress, to police itself.
“Security officers who are licensed by your respective agencies are authorized to make arrests for crimes committed in their presence, and their authority, according to your stated policy in your Private Security Manual and licensing card, is the same as that of a city or county police officer,” Zott wrote the Chiefs.