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St. Louis police records show mishandled evidence

Associated Press, St. Joseph News-Press,
BYLINE: Associated Press

St. Louis, MO

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police records released in a lawsuit over seized 2006 World Series tickets show broader mishandling of other evidence by vice and drug officers.

A judge last week ordered the city police department to release some internal affairs reports in a public records lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri. Fifteen police officers were either suspended and demoted or otherwise disciplined for giving St. Louis Cardinals' championship tickets seized from scalpers to friends and family.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a police sergeant kept more than $11,000 in a locked safe in his office for months rather than promptly place the cash in secure evidence lockers as required. Police spokeswoman Schron Jackson said the department was reviewing its chain-of-custody procedures.

Circuit Judge Robert Dierker's ruling made some police disciplinary reports public, but the judge determined that other documents remained off-limits while officers appealed their release. Files of officers who did not show up in court to contest the release were made public.

In a 2007 interview, the police commander of the vice and narcotics unit said he didn't know the sergeant kept a safe. The internal affairs commander described "several instances of money over $2,000 being seized and kept in that safe for long periods of time," according to interview transcripts released as part of the judge's order.

The interviews show that the World Series tickets used by officers in the scalper cases weren't available to internal police investigators for weeks after their inquiry began two months later.

ACLU lawyer Anthony Rothert said the released police records prompt broader concerns.

"They also raise questions about how evidence is handled in general and whether or not exculpatory information is given to defendants, which just highlights why records like these need to be released," Rothert said.

He said Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce should have been able to review those records before deciding not to issue criminal charges against the officers. Joyce responded that her office would take appropriate action once prosecutors have fully reviewed the records.

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