State's attorney: Ethics violations make Brooklyn police cases too unreliable to prosecute
The prosecutor in St. Clair County, Illinois, says he will no longer pursue criminal charges for cases brought to him by the Brooklyn Police Department.
State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly released a list of the Metro East department’s unethical practices confirmed by his office as part of an ongoing investigation into Brooklyn police. Notable items on the list include the inability to account for confiscated cash and drugs, withholding of officer pay unless they meet their quota of towed vehicles, and reports of drunken officers pulling their guns on civilians at night clubs.
“It speaks for itself in its justification as to why we have to take this action today, why this police department is not just dysfunctional it is nonfunctional,” Kelly said. “At the very least, my duty as a prosecutor is to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system.”
Kelly said Wednesday that he has already dismissed 21 felony cases brought to him by Brooklyn police, and his office will no longer pursue future cases because the department is not credible.
“Given the circumstances we find ourselves in, there really is no other choice,” Kelly said. “Our hope is that we can work with the people of Brooklyn and the relevant players in this situation — the sheriff and the state police — to try to find some more permanent, credible form of law enforcement.”
“We keep going back and forth back and forth and back forth over the years with these same problems,” he added. “We have to draw the line. We can’t keep doing things the way we’ve been doing them in these small communities. The people that are there, they deserve credible law enforcement.”
A history of ethical concerns among Metro East police departments led the state of Illinois to form the Metro East Police District two years ago to provide oversight to Brooklyn and three other Metro East municipalities.
But according to Kelly the district only has the authority to set policy, not enforce change.
“It’s not there to provide new law enforcement. (The district) is there to analyze these problems, to offer suggestions and solutions and to galvanize the community to take action — action that they already have the authority to do under existing law,” Kelly said.
Until local authorities decide the future of the Brooklyn Police Department, Kelly has asked state police and St. Clair County Sheriff Richard Watson to keep a closer eye on the municipality.
Wilson said his department’s first priority will be to answer 911 calls in Brooklyn, but his officers will also continue to patrol the night clubs — a practice he has already put in place due to the limited resources of Brooklyn Police. Many Brooklyn officers have resigned over the ethical concerns, cutting the department from nine to two or three.
“You take on Friday and Saturday nights, if you’ve ever been down there (you know) it's busy, there’s a lot of things going on (at the night clubs) and you need more than just two or three police officers,” Watson said.
Watson said he stations two of his officers at the night clubs from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. and places four there on the weekends.
“Believe me, they’ve been busy,” Wilson added.
Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.