Before Criminal Justice Reformer Is Even Sworn In, St. Louis Prosecutors Have Joined a Police Union
St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s 27-year tenure was marked most famously by his failure to win an indictment of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014. He didn’t know it at the time, but that moment, and his hostile press conference announcing the decision, inspired a nationwide effort to reform prosecutorial offices by running criminal justice reformers to serve as district attorneys, not just public defenders.
In the summer of 2018, that movement eventually swallowed up McCulloch, when reformer Wesley Bell beat him in a primary.
But winning the office and reforming the system are two different tasks, and now Bell is facing extraordinary resistance from dogmatic front-line prosecutors — even before he has been sworn in.
This week, prosecutors in the office took the unusual step of voting in secret to join a police union.
At a meeting on Monday with the St. Louis Police Officers Association, or SPLOA, prosecutors and investigators rushed a vote to join the labor union known for representing cops who have brutalized and murdered civilians. The group has encouraged targeting people who oppose its defense of those cops, once tweeting an article listing 46 St. Louis-area businesses that signed a letter protesting the acquittal of cop Jason Stockley in the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith. The tweet, later deleted, read: “For what it’s worth … a list of STL businesses that hate cops and sympathize with vandals, brought to you by a tabloid birdcage liner that hates cops and sympathizes with vandals.”