The St. Louis Private Police Company is staffed with the best police department personnel.politics

Jeremy Kohler ProPublica

st. Louis — The largest private police company in St. Louis is the city police commander, supervisor, and junior police officer.

Of the approximately 200 St. Louis police officers whose names appeared on an internal list of police officers who sought approval from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department earlier this year for The Cities Finest’s Moonlight, six There were four of the district commanders. rank of captain. A list obtained by ProPublica through public records requests includes him as two of the division’s highest-ranking officers, Major Ryan Cousins, who oversees the division’s murder, rape, and arson investigations, and Major Sean Dace, who oversees the Southern Patrol. was also included. It contains two districts. It is not clear if all of these officers currently work for The Cities Finest.

Dace and the four captains declined comment through their department.

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many of the city’s wealthier and predominantly white neighborhoods Hire off-duty cops from companies like The City’s Finest Arrangements that create disparities in how cities are protected to complement departmental patrols. Many executives moonlighting for private companies that exist to bolster the agency’s crime-fighting shortcomings, experts said, suggesting serious problems.

Peter Joy, a professor at the University of Washington School of Law in St. Louis, said there would be less demand for The Cities Finest and other businesses if police were more effective.

Joy, an expert in legal ethics and criminal justice, said, “If there is less crime in these areas, there will be less business for The Cities Finest.” “So it looks like there is a conflict of interest.”

Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, who has studied side jobs by police, says the dual role of police officers can lead to real and perceived conflicts of interest.

“If you do your job too well as a civil servant, you will put your security company out of business,” said Stoughton, a former police officer. “I’m not saying it will actually happen. But it certainly creates this perception.

“The question on the public mind now is who are we really doing this for?”

Because The City’s Finest’s organizational chart is independent of the police department’s command structure, high-ranking police officers may need to receive direction from their department subordinates while working for The City’s Finest. For example, The City’s Finest’s chief operating officer is a city lieutenant, but the company has several senior commanders under him.

Charles “Rob” Betts, owner of The City’s Finest, said: “They are doing a great job and are very professional. I think that is a good thing and encourages the other officers working there. increase.”

Betts said he likes to assign leadership roles to commanders in his company. However, some junior officers also hold leadership positions. “I like their work ethic and there are people doing a great job.”

Betts said he never received any complaints about commanders working for his company.

“I have never seen unethical behavior and do not want to be a part of it,” he said.

Nate Lindsey, a former employee with a taxing district in the Dutchtown area in the south of the city, said the department has a culture that sees policing as mostly a private enterprise.

“Private companies are setting the agenda for what law enforcement looks like in the city of St. Louis,” he said.

Too many police chiefs “have secondary jobs, for example, rather than spending the night answering emails to people they serve within their actual districts,” Lindsey added.

But Jay Schroeder, president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, a police union, said in his view the commanding officer of the police department is just trying to make up for income that lags behind police departments in other areas. A police chief in St. Louis makes about $88,000 a year, while a police chief in neighboring St. Louis County makes about $110,000 a year. Post-dispatch salary database.

Unlike patrol officers and sergeants, city commanders are not eligible for overtime. “They’re paying tuition, and some kids are going to college,” Schroeder said.

Heather Taylor, the city’s deputy director of public safety, was making about $74,000 when she retired in 2020 after 20 years as a sergeant. She’s making about $99,000 in her new role, and will have to shoulder significant medical bills for her family, she said.

“I couldn’t imagine being a sergeant now and dealing with the issues I was dealing with with the salary I was receiving,” she said. Do you need to do as much secondary work as our police do?”

The city declined to comment otherwise on the prevalence of police commanders working for private police companies.

Some of the highest-ranking executives in the department sometimes spend their off hours performing tasks that their subordinates normally do in their day-to-day work.

Documents obtained by ProPublica through a public records request show that Cousins ​​sent an email to coordinate The City’s Finest’s response to issues such as abandoned cars and stolen golf carts. . Police station.

At the time of the e-mail, Cousins ​​was the commander of the Southern Patrol. The Southern Patrol includes him in two of the city’s six police stations, but not Seulard, the Cities, where he worked as a project manager at Finest. It’s not clear who Cousins ​​was holding the watch for when he sent the email, and the department didn’t release data showing how long he worked in the city.

Cousins ​​said in an e-mail that the department would allow him to work under another employer and that his responsibilities to the company included scheduling officers for patrols, patrolling himself, and attending Seulard meetings. Attendance, he said, would include advising company and police officers on ongoing criminal matters.

He said it’s important to address any minor concerns residents bring. “Since it’s not as important as a robbery or a murder, should I have let these concerns calm down and waited for someone to address the matter later, instead of providing a timely response?” he asked. .

Capt. Michael Mueller served for over four years as commander of District 5, which spanned Delmar Boulevard and included the upscale Central West End and several high-crime areas in the north. That meant he was responsible for making decisions about how to deploy resources across regions with wide disparities in wealth.

At the same time, he ran a foot patrol in The City’s Finest’s Central West End.

Neighborhood officials who have been managing Mueller patrols for The City’s Finest said they did not see any clashes. “He’s the district captain, so he’s not working for us second-hand,” said a former city police officer, executive director of the Central West End Neighborhood Security Initiative, which oversees The City’s Finest patrols. said Jim Whyte of the

On one occasion, in February 2020, Mr. White, who is not a police department employee, sent an email suggesting that Mr. Mueller be arrested for trespassing. The man said he repeatedly entered a West End cosmetics store at Central where employees had a restraining order against him. In an email to police officers, copied to Mueller, White wrote: In fact, Captain Mueller would arrest him before anyone else. ”

Protecting businesses and their employees from suspected trespassers is important to the health of neighborhoods, White said, adding that “you don’t get a police response to trespassing.”

Mueller was recently transferred to another police station. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Stoughton, a law professor who studies police side jobs, said police officers working as privately hired officers in the same districts he oversaw may have shared loyalties. said. As commander, he may want to put more of the police department’s resources into the areas where he draws his second paycheck. However, his private employer business depends on the need for police work there, so he may want to withhold resources.

Campbell Security and Service Group, a small private police company competing for contracts with The City’s Finest, also employs senior city commanders. It works in a handful of regions.

Among the 60 city employees who sought and received permission to work at Campbell are Sack, Major Eric Larson of the Office of Professional Standards, and three district commanders. One of his district commanders, Captain Christy Marks, said he had not worked at Campbell for about five years. Other officials, through police, declined to comment.

Company owner Kobe Campbell said his salaried officials had worked as both private patrols and consultants. It can be anything, up to the idea of ​​a “There is no time frame. There may be nothing for a month or two, but there may be things you want done by them.”

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