Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Rachel Lippmann

Justice Reporter

Rachel Lippmann covers courts, public safety and city politics for St. Louis Public Radio. (She jokingly refers to them as the “nothing ever happens beats.”) She joined the NPR affiliate in her hometown in 2008, after spending two years in Lansing covering the Michigan Capitol and various other state political shenanigans for NPR affiliates there. Though she’s a native St. Louisan, part of her heart definitely remains in the Mitten. (And no, she’s not going to tell you where she went to high school.)

Rachel has an undergraduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism, and a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. When she’s not busy pursuing the latest scoop, you can find her mentoring her Big Brothers Big Sisters match, hitting the running and biking paths in south St. Louis, catching the latest sporting event on TV, playing with every dog she possibly can, or spending time with the great friends she’s met during her time in this city.

Rachel’s on Twitter @rlippmann. Even with 240 characters, spellings are still phonetic.

Ways to Connect

Construction of the second phase of the Ballpark Village development, across from Busch Stadium on March 28, 2019.
File photo | Mary Delach Leonard | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen has voted to ensure that workers on big construction projects are paid the prevailing wage for skilled tradespeople in the area.

Aldermen sent prevailing wage legislation to Mayor Lyda Krewson on Friday without opposition. She is expected to sign the measure.

Missouri Chief Justice George Draper, center, delivers his State of the Judiciary Address on Jan. 22, 2020as House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe listen.
Tim Bommel | House Communications

The chief justice of the Missouri Supreme Court says the state needs to properly fund its public defender system to continue the criminal justice reforms it has passed in the past several years.

Speaking to a joint session of the state Legislature on Wednesday for his first State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice George Draper applauded the General Assembly for boosting access to treatment courts and allowing more individuals to enter diversion programs. However, he cautioned those reforms can only go so far.

Activists with the Close the Workhouse campaign call on Mayor Lyda Krewson to close down the jail as she arrives for a segment on St. Louis on the Air.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

What started out as a viral video exposing the poor conditions detainees were facing inside St. Louis’ Medium Security Institution — also known as the Workhouse — has turned into a three-year-long effort to shut it down. In 2017, activists and civil rights organizations Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders and Bail Project St. Louis began pursuing calls to action to close it. 

The facility largely houses people who have not been convicted of a crime and cannot afford bail. Conditions inside have reportedly included black mold, dangerously high and low temperatures, moldy food and “rats as big as cats.” 

The city has since invested in renovating the facility, but this week, the Close the Workhouse campaign announced its relaunch with a newly updated report. And now, it has a new ally.

Inez Bordeaux, an organizer with Close the Workhouse, present's the group's new report during a press conference at City Hall on Jan. 14, 2020.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Four activist groups say they have found a way to close the St. Louis jail known as the Workhouse by the end of this year.

The Close the Workhouse campaign unveiled its plan on Tuesday. The groups behind it say their research shows all of the people accused of state crimes could be held safely at the downtown Criminal Justice Center.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner speaks to news reporters on July 11, 2019.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:30 p.m., Jan. 14 with comment from the advocacy group covering the cost of litigation —

St. Louis’ first black prosecutor, Kim Gardner, has sued the city, its police union and five other defendants for what she calls a racist effort to block her reform agenda.

“Gardner was elected in 2016 on a promise to redress the scourge of historical inequality and rebuild trust in the criminal justice system among communities of color,” reads the lawsuit filed Monday in federal court. “Unfortunately, entrenched interests in St. Louis … have mobilized to thwart these efforts through a broad campaign of collusive conduct” to protect the status quo and remove Gardner from office.

St. Louis Alderwoman Cara Spencer announced plans Monday on St. Louis on the Air to challenge Mayor Lyda Krewson for the city's highest office.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 1:45 p.m. Jan. 13, with comments from Spencer

Cara Spencer, an alderwoman from south St. Louis, will challenge Mayor Lyda Krewson in 2021.

“I want to live in a city that works,” Spencer, D-20th Ward, said Monday on St. Louis on the Air. “St. Louis is uniquely poised to be the next fastest-growing city. We are a great old city, but we’re broken in a lot of ways, and I’m running for mayor to fix that.”

Spencer is the first Krewson opponent to announce a run for the office. Krewson told St. Louis on the Air last year that she intended to seek re-election.

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen chambers on July 7, 2017.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Starting in 2021, employers in St. Louis won’t be able to ask about criminal history on a job application.

The Board of Aldermen on Friday sent so-called ban-the-box legislation to Mayor Lyda Krewson. A spokesman said she had not yet reviewed it.

Dozens of law enforcement vehicles line Bircher Blvd., outside ABB's complex, on Jan. 7, 2010. A disgruntled employee had shot and killed three people and wounded five others before turning the gun on himself.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

The top news story early on Jan. 7, 2010, was the winter weather. Three inches of snow had fallen overnight, and it was still snowing. Temperatures were in the teens with gusty winds.

But before the sun rose, everything changed. Timothy G. Hendron, 51, an employee of transformer manufacturer ABB, walked into the factory complex in north St. Louis and opened fire. He would kill three people and wound five before turning the gun on himself, in St. Louis’ first mass workplace shooting.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson takes questions from reporters in her office at City Hallon Jan 3, 2020.
Rachel Lippman | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson says she has confidence in the city’s police leadership, despite the deaths of seven people in the first 36 hours of the year.

“Considering the circumstances, I think our police department is doing a great job,” she said Friday in comments to the media outlining her plans for the year. “Unfortunately, we’ve had a particularly violent start to 2020. Of course it’s very troubling, and it’s discouraging.”

The latest episode of Politically Speaking features St. Louis Public Radio's political team counting down the top stories of the decade.
Carolina Hidalgo I St. Louis Public Radio

Politically speaking, Missouri politics changed dramatically throughout the 2010s.

At the beginning of the decade, the Show-Me State was a place where Democrats dominated in high-stakes statewide contests — while Republicans prevailed in state legislative elections. By the end of 2019, Republicans maintained unprecedented control over Missouri politics.

Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Some criminal defendants in St. Louis County who cannot afford an attorney may face more delays in getting one.

The court will start a waitlist for public defenders Thursday in an effort to control the number of cases the attorneys are handling at one time. An October 2019 review found that most of the county’s 25 public defenders were responsible for so many cases they were potentially violating the civil rights of their clients.

Items stolen from properties being rehabbed in south St. Louis and St. Louis County sit in a city-owned warehouse on Dec. 23, 2019. Police say they recovered more than 800 items stolen over the last year.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis police say they have recovered more than 800 items stolen over the past year from properties being rehabbed in south St. Louis and St. Louis County.

“This was a sophisticated operation,” said Sgt. Tom Kitchell, supervisor of the 3rd District Burglary Squad. “They would drive around during the day and look for rehabs. They would look at signs in the windows, the permits in the windows, and look at the construction trucks or trucks outside. They would pick their targets a week or two in advance.”

The items police found included old suitcases, power tools, stained-glass windows, a refrigerator and a kitchen sink.

Cars lurch along on snow-covered roads in Ballwin. Many parts of the St. Louis region reported more than 6 inches of snow accumulation by Monday afternoon, according to 5 On Your Side. 12/16/19
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 4 p.m., Dec. 16 —

The winter storm that moved into Missouri on Sunday is keeping the state’s highway patrol and transportation department busy. 

As of Monday morning, Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers had responded to more than 2,000 calls. Four people have died in highway wrecks because of the weather, and another 66 were injured. By 2 p.m., there had been nearly 100 accidents reported on the highways in the St. Louis area.

The Board of Aldermen chambers on Dec. 13, 2019.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis is a step closer to banning so-called “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ minors. 

The Board of Aldermen voted overwhelmingly Friday to outlaw licensed medical providers from offering programs that claim to be able to change an individual’s sexual orientation. Mayor Lyda Krewson is expected to sign the ban.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

The St. Louis County police officer who successfully sued the department for failing to promote him because he is gay has been promoted.

The department announced Thursday night that now-Lt. Keith Wildhaber will head its new Diversity and Inclusion Unit. 

Jamala Rogers, far left, the executive director of the Organization for Black Struggle, helps deliver petitions supporting a new trial for Lamar Johnson to Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Dec. 10, 2019.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Dec. 11 with oral arguments

The ability of prosecutors in Missouri to undo wrongful convictions they discover is in the hands of a state appeals court.

A three-judge panel of the Eastern District of Missouri heard oral arguments Wednesday in the case of Lamar Johnson. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner asked for a new trial in his case in July, saying her Conviction Integrity Unit found pervasive police and prosecutor misconduct in his 1995 murder conviction.

More than double the number of black drivers than white drivers were stopped in St. Louis in 2018.
St. Louis Public Radio

Two St. Louis police officers whose racist social media posts were exposed by an advocacy group in June are no longer with the department.

Brian Millikan, an attorney for Ronald Hasty and Thomas Mabrey, confirmed Monday the two were fired Nov. 27. He said that decision has been appealed.

s_falkow | Flickr

A pilot program in courthouses in Madison and Bond counties in Illinois is designed to speed up simple family court cases.

The Third Judicial Circuit received a $5,000 state grant to pay for mediators who can help people without attorneys do the paperwork to make agreements in those cases legally binding. The program started Dec. 1.

A man crosses the street in Dutchtown on November 22, 2019.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The Dutchtown neighborhood, in southeast St. Louis, has seen anti-violence initiatives come and go over the years.

Now it’s one of three neighborhoods selected for a nationally known program called Cure Violence. As its name suggests, Cure Violence treats violent crime such as shootings and homicides as a disease that can be cured with the right intervention.

In Dutchtown, there’s a sense of cautious hope that the latest initiative might make a difference in a neighborhood that’s seen 13 people killed and more than 130 shot this year alone.

Christine Ingrassia

St. Louis Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia joins St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann on the latest episode of Politically Speaking.

The Democrat represents the city’s 6th Ward. Her district encompasses nine neighborhoods, including Lafayette Square and Fox Park. 

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

In October, attorneys for St. Louis County fighting a discrimination case filed by a gay police sergeant made the argument that a judge should rule against him because Missouri law doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class.

The legal maneuver prompted an angry response from County Executive Sam Page, who said he was “horrified and surprised that argument was used, and I don’t want to see it used again.”

But outside attorneys hired by the county made that exact argument in a court filing this week.

Attorney General Eric Schmitt at a press conference on November 19, 2019.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is backing legislative efforts to make carjacking a state crime, and to lift the requirement that some St. Louis police officers live in the city.

“We are offering two solutions to two problems we know exist,” Schmitt, a Republican, said Tuesday at a news conference in St. Louis. “We need tougher sentencing for carjackings. And we have a police officer shortage. So let’s open up the talent base.”

Local and federal law enforcement make an arrest in St. Louis this summer during a three-month roundup of violent fugitives.
United States Marshals

Federal law enforcement officials say a three-month cooperative push to apprehend violent fugitives resulted in more than 160 arrests in the St. Louis region.

The U.S. Marshals announced the results of the operation Thursday. They say 16 of those arrested were wanted for homicide, and many were connected to violent gangs in the area.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, left and Thomasina Hassler to the county's Board of Police Commissioners.
Washington University School of Medicine, Thomasina Hassler via Facebook

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is keeping his promise to bring leadership change to the police department.

Page on Thursday announced that he had nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, a trauma surgeon, and Thomasina Hassler, a longtime educator, to the Board of Police Commissioners, which oversees the police department. He had two other nominees approved by the county council last week.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sgt. Keith Wildhaber’s nearly $20 million jury verdict hit St. Louis County government like a lightning bolt. 

The huge award sparked internal and external scrutiny of one of Missouri’s largest law enforcement agencies about how it treats LGBTQ employees. It’s also prompted a debate about whether Missouri should pass more explicit laws to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin, an attorney at Capes Sokol, were nominated to the Board of Police Commissioners Friday. Nov. 4, 2019
File photo|Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday approved two new members of the Board of Police Commissioners — a move activists said doesn’t do enough to improve a culture that fails to punish officer misconduct.

The council also approved funding for outside attorneys to help with a legal response to a nearly $20 million verdict against the county for discrimination. And members called on the city of St. Louis to be more transparent in conversations about privatizing St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says he was surprised by a nearly $20 million verdict against his department for discriminating against a gay police sergeant.

“Without getting too much into a conversation about the verdict, yes, I was surprised by it,” Belmar said Tuesday. “But I would say that we have to take a look at these things as an opportunity to move forward.”

Attorney Michelle Schwerin, center right, and former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price, center left, speak with attendees after answering questions from St. Louis County councilmembers. Nov. 4, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar appears to have the support of the two nominees to the Board of Police Commissioners — at least for now.

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin, an attorney at Capes Sokol, answered questions Monday from all but one of the County Council members who will vote on their confirmation. That could come Tuesday if background checks are completed in time.

ArchCity Defenders' Blake Strode and Jacki Langum
St. Louis Public Radio's Lara Hamdan and ArchCity Defenders

Blake Strode, executive director of ArchCity Defenders, and Jacki Langum, the organization’s advocacy director, talk about the group’s 10th anniversary on the latest edition of Politically Speaking.

ArchCity is celebrating this week with a live taping of its podcast, a celebration of actor Danny Glover as a Racial Justice Champion, and a day-long racial justice roundtable.

Dr. Will Ross of Washington University in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue, Jason Rosenbaum, Rachel Lippmann and others talk about Missouri and St. Louis politics. 

Here are the topics covered: