St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly will no longer accept any criminal cases from the Brooklyn Police Department.
“My office currently cannot in good faith assert to any jury or judge that officer testimony, investigative methods, or physical evidence collection of the Brooklyn Police Department is credible or reliable,” Kelly said.
“Therefore, my office will not issue criminal charges sought by the Brooklyn Police Department at this time,” said Kelly, who held a meeting Wednesday afternoon at New Life Community Church in East St. Louis to outline his reasons behind the decision.
Kelly called the police department “dysfunctional.” He has asked the Illinois State Police and the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department — two agencies with the authority to enforce state law within the jurisdiction of Brooklyn — to increase their enforcement efforts in Brooklyn.
“My office will work with the citizens of Brooklyn and Brooklyn officials, as well as the St. Clair County Sheriff and Illinois State Police, to move us towards some permanent sustainable form of credible law enforcement,” he said.
St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said his department has been providing assistance by sending cars up to Brooklyn to help patrol, but that cannot continue forever, and that at some point the department will need to be paid for its services.
In a three-page letter to Brooklyn Mayor Vera Glasper-Banks, Kelly detailed his office’s findings regarding the Brooklyn Police Department, which included:
The department maintains little or no control over access to the evidence vault, with the key to the evidence vault apparently accessible to anyone at any time.
The department evidence vault is in serious disrepair.
The department has no documented chain of custody for an undetermined number of items, including 35 guns found by the sheriff within the Brooklyn evidence vault. The department cannot account for cash referenced as evidence in recent police reports.
The department cannot account for cannabis and controlled substances referenced as evidence in recent police reports.
The department recently failed to comply with repeated requests by prosecutors to complete follow up investigation.
The department recently failed to provide discoverable material including physical evidence, reports and videos. The department’s video equipment recently malfunctioned or was improperly operated on numerous occasions rendering video-taped statements required by statute inadmissible.
The department recently, repeatedly and routinely disregards its own policies and procedures adopted by the Village Board from the Metro East Police District Commission’s policy and procedures manual.
The department has both a historical and recent pattern of officer credibility issues.
The department has little or no oversight or the capacity for oversight and does not appear to seriously enforce disciplinary standards, except when my office issues charges against an officer or determines an officer is not credible.
The department has recently been the subject of numerous complaints from citizens and other officers regarding alleged inappropriate pursuit tactics and use of force.
The department has recently been the subject of numerous complaints from citizens and other officers regarding intoxicated officers frequenting clubs in Brooklyn and causing confrontations during which officers drew their weapons on civilians.
Current and former officers of the department allegedly were under the influence in uniform with minors who were also allegedly under the influence.
Current and former officers stated that at least one police report was deliberately written in a manner that was contrary to actual events of an investigation.
Current and former officers of the department state they do not get paid unless a sufficient number of vehicles are towed every weekend, calling into question the justification and credibility of every law enforcement action potentially involving the towing of a vehicle.
The department has suffered a recent rash of officer resignations, in part due to officer credibility issues and also in part due to officers who feel they can no longer ethically or professionally serve in a department with the aforementioned conditions.
“It is not any single concern of those cited above, but all accumulation and totality of these concerns that are intolerable and unacceptable,” Kelly said of the 15 points outlined in his letter. “There is no Illinois law which provides any authority at the state or local level to intervene when a police department has gone from dysfunctional to nonfunctional.
“However, a prosecutor always has the authority and the duty to assess the credibility and reliability of any evidence and witnesses including the police and to set charging parameters in accordance and consistent with that assessment.”
Earlier this month, St. Clair County prosecutors dismissed 21 criminal cases investigated by Brooklyn police following a March 25 raid of the department.
Illinois State Police and St. Clair sheriff’s deputies confiscated weapons, computers and documents during the raid. The village police chief Steve Mitchell resigned after Kelly questioned the role of a towing company that contracts with Brooklyn police and is owned by a relative of a since-fired village officer. Another officer was fired for taking a weapon from the police evidence room.
Residents in this all-black community in northern St. Clair County, near the Madison County line, have complained about police harassment, especially by white officers. The former chief and two officers who were fired were white.
But former Judge Milton Wharton said he does not see the potential for another Ferguson in Brooklyn.
“I heard from the good people of Brooklyn. It’s a historical community. I wish the news media would go look at the real Brooklyn and not just report on what they see from the highway,” Wharton said.
There are few jobs in Brooklyn outside of a handful of strip clubs and massage parlors that operate there. Wharton said there used to be packing houses in nearby National City, but those are all closed. The residents are poor but proud, he said.
Kelly said there are businesses ready to come to Brooklyn but they won’t come because of the public safety issue. There frequently are reports of shootings at the strip clubs. “We have to address both public safety and economic development,” he said.
Several at the meeting said it will be up to the new Metro-East Police Commission to try to come up with a solution to the problems in the police department.