Police say Gardner dismissed over 2,600 felony charges in 2019; Gardner calls numbers 'misleading'

By NewsRadio 1120 KMOX

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - The St. Louis Police Chief says the number of felony charges issued by St. Louis Circut Attorney Kim Gardner was low last year, compared to how many felony charges police asked her to issue.

In response to a public records request,  police released a tally of initial dispositions from last year, showing the department asked Gardner to issue more than 7,000 felony charges.

Of that total, Gardner refused to issue charges for 38% and issued charges for 23%.  Another 37% were "pending application of warrant," which means more than 24 hours is needed to finalize evidence to present to the Circuit Attorney.

Asked if the percentage of charges filed is high or low, the St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden responded, "I believe that it's lower than what it's been in the past. I would like to see our warrants to be looked at and analyzed and then when there are warrants that show that officers arrested people for probable cause, I would like warrants to be issued." 

Hayden stopped short of criticizing Gardner. Asked if the circuit attorney is "tough enough" on crime, the Chief responded, "The circuit attorney is doing what she believes people elected her to do, and I think I'm doing what people appointed me to do."

A spokesperson for Gardner's office says the police numbers are "misleading," but they were not yet prepared to release their own numbers. 

Anyone trying to arrive at an accurate scorecard for the circuit attorney will find the data strewn with nuances:

For instance, some of the "charges refused" may reflect the hundreds of gun cases Gardner shifted to federal court in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney, part of a program to get around Missouri's more lenient gun laws. 

Other charges refused may represent defendants shifted to a diversion program, to provide drug and alcohol treatment, and job training as an alternative to prison.

Critics of Gardner say to get around "refusing" to issue charges, she has shown a pattern of asking police to "get more evidence first," effectively keeping her refusal numbers lower.

Chief Hayden was asked if his officers have encountered more requests for evidence for cases that seem ready for court.

"I have heard that officers have not understood exactly why they would be asked for follow-up information," Hayden said, "But that being said, when they have asked for it, we have gone to get it."

Here are the full numbers police provided for  KMOX: 

Total felony arrests made by SLMPD in 2019: 3,453Total felony charges from SLMPD: 7,045

Here's what police say Gardner did with those charges:

1,641 - Warrants issued2,695 - Refused to issue warrant91 - Taken under advisement2,618 - Pending application of warrant

The numbers were sent to KMOX by police from a Sunshine Request. 

 

On Monday, Gardner has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of St. Louis, St. Louis police union and other "politically connected individuals" for allegedly violating the "Ku Klux Klan Act" and other laws designed to promote racial justice racist conspiracy.

The next day, Black and female prosecutors from around the country rallied on the downtown St. Louis courthouse steps in support of Gardner. 

The police union named in Gardner's lawsuit, the St. Louis Police Officers Association, is fighting back.

Business Manager Jeff Roorda says Gardner has been incompetent as a prosecutor and has frequently failed to file charges sought by police in violent criminal cases. 

"We keep hearing her being the first African-American female prosecutor, the first this, the first that," Roorda says. "We're not criticizing her because she's the first, we're criticizing her because she's the worst, the worst prosecutor in the United States."

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