Police Lieutenant Accused of Racial Profiling: "Let's Have a Black Day" -- Is the Department Attempting a Cover Up?
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Eastern Missouri is suing the St. Louis county police department over the refusal to turn over documents related to a cop’s instructions to racially profile. The ACLU says the lawsuit is a last resort after requests for public records on the case were denied, the St. Louis Riverfront Times reports.
The civil liberties group says that the police are violating Missouri’s public records law.
“If we don't fight this, then the average citizen who is entitled to get documents just as much as the ACLU is will give up,” the ACLU’s Grant Doty told the Riverfront Times. “Then the accountability that this law was intended to promote is going to be harmed.”
The case centers around a cop named Patrick Hayes. A county police lieutenant, Hayes has been accused of ordering police to racially profile minorities. He allegedly said things like “let's have a black day” and the the police should “let's make the jail cells more colorful.” A whistleblower, who the public now knows is Sgt. Daniel O'Neil, made the allegations that eventually led to the firing of Hayes. O’Neil has also filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that cops retaliated against him for his whistleblowing.
But the police still seem to want to cover up records relating to Hayes. The ACLU is seeking the release of an anonymous letter that detailed Hayes’ orders to racially profile. “They may feel that it will be embarrassing. They may feel that the document will reflect poorly on the department,” said the ACLU’s Doty. “But none of those are exceptions that [Missouri’s Sunshine Law] recognizes."
The police argue that Hayes’ actions were an “anomaly,” while Hayes’ attorneys say the allegations were made by officers with a “vendetta” against him. The police also say that the refusal to release the documents to the ACLU “was made by the St. Louis County Counselor's Office and not the Police Department.”