CLICK HERE TO REPORT LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRUPTION (Provide as much information as possible: full names, descriptions, dates, times, activity, witnesses, etc.)

Telephone: 347-632-9775

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

State Oversight Proposed for Troubled Police Departments

State oversight proposed for troubled Metro East police departments 
The Post-Dispatch by Nicholas J.C. Pistor  -  May 1, 2012

Amid allegations of bad cops and widespread corruption within police departments patrolling the tough streets below the Metro East bluffs, new legislation would put four agencies under the umbrella of a state and community oversight board. State Sen. James Clayborne, D-Belleville, inserted an amendment last week to unrelated legislation regulating county board members. As modified, it would establish a "Metro East Police District Commission" to oversee the crime-plagued and cash-starved police departments in East St. Louis, Washington Park, Alorton and Brooklyn. The departments would still operate independently. If approved, the bill would empower the commission to make ordinances to regulate the departments, strengthen standards and apply for and spend state and federal grants and appropriations. A separate bill would allow the communities to use tax increment financing money to fund policing. Stephen Wigginton, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said Monday, "We need historic change; the status quo is not working." Federal authorities have been conducting an ongoing investigation into public corruption in that area. Just in the past year, it has netted Michael Baxton, the former police chief of both Alorton and East St. Louis who was caught in an FBI sting stealing Xbox video game systems; and former Alorton Mayor Randy McCallum Sr., who has pleaded guilty to using his police department to steal and distribute cocaine.

The complications created by corruption can perhaps best be shown by former Washington Park lead detective Kim McAfee, who recently reported to federal prison in Kentucky to serve a 26-month term for fraud related to work his private security company did for the East St. Louis schools and housing authority. McAfee's credibility became an underlying issue in last week's murder trial of Aaron "Chill" Jackson, who was convicted of killing Washington Park Mayor John Thornton in 2010. Jackson's first trial, last year, ended abruptly when a state's witness told prosecutors that McAfee had offered her money to say that he had not been present at the murder scene. The defense in the second trial implied that McAfee might have framed Jackson, and even a state police detective testified that McAfee had been questioned as a potential murder suspect and could not be ruled out as having some connection to the crime. St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly has pushed for the legislation "to combat corruption and deal with violence." He will be in Springfield on Wednesday with community leaders to testify in support of the bill. "The people in these communities deserve the best possible law enforcement," Kelly said. He noted that half of the murders in East St. Louis since 2000 have gone unsolved, largely because of a lack of standards and resources, in addition to officers with criminal pasts. Kelly had alluded to the problem in a statement Friday after the Jackson verdict. "When you have allegations of corrupt police, guilty men may walk free," he said. As proposed, the police district would have seven members appointed by the governor, four by the mayor of East St. Louis, and one each by the mayors of Alorton, Brooklyn and Washington Park. It would also have three ex-officio members representing the St. Clair County state's attorney and directors of the Illinois State Police and Southern Illinois Law Enforcement Commission. Wigginton said the legislation "isn't a hostile takeover." He said the point was to produce hiring standards, uniformity, and "raise the level of law enforcement." Still, the wording of the legislation would give the commission strong powers, enabling it to establish rules and regulations regarding officer ethics, search and seizure procedures, evidence handling, purchasing and many other aspects of police operations. East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore recently said his department had 46 officers. Illinois State Police data from late 2010 show four full-time and 10 part-time officers in Alorton and five full-time and 11 part-time in Washington Park; Brooklyn was not listed. It may not be an easy sell among local politicians, especially in poor communities where police departments have long been prominent centerpieces of money, power and public jobs. Washington Park Mayor James Jones says there "will have to be changes in the language" before the bill receives his support. Jones questioned why East St. Louis would get four seats on the board, while the other three communities would get one apiece. Kelly said the seat allocation was based on population. The commission would have an account with the Illinois state treasury and would be required to submit a detailed report on its operations to the Legislature every other year. Alvin Parks, the mayor of East St. Louis, said he was supportive of the effort but had not seen the specific legislation as of Monday. The legislation is HB1404. Kevin McDermott of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report. - 314-340-8265

No comments: