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Law, disorder and Brooklyn

The public has known for a while that the Brooklyn Police Department’s evidence storage areas were in sad shape and at risk of being compromised. But it was a shock to learn that instead of the problem coming from the outside, it apparently came from within.

State and St. Clair County investigators raided the department this week. They wouldn’t say why, but we do know that St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly had recently notified the village that he would no longer prosecute cases involving former chief of detectives Christopher Heatherly, who was in charge of the evidence vault.

Kelly alleged that Heatherly took an AR-15 assault rifle, an illegal weapon that was evidence in a pending criminal case, and kept it in the trunk of his car. Heatherly even posed with the rifle for the police department’s photo calendar, according to Kelly. Ammunition and a suspected controlled substance that were seized with this assault weapon are missing, he said.

It’s yet another reminder of the uphill struggle of operating a small, impoverished department. The Metro East Police District Commission was set up to provide training and support for Alorton, Brooklyn, East St. Louis and Washington Park.

Last year the U.S. Department of Justice suggested that the four departments might be merged into one standalone department, or that police services contracted out.

At the time, Kelly said that funds weren’t available to merge the departments, “so shared services, joint policing, more cops, and training and high standards enforced by the commission is our best hope.”

Maybe it’s time to disband the department and let Brooklyn contract with the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.