Monday, September 8, 2014

Jennings Police Dept and a Massacre in Kirkwood, Missouri

Officer Darren Wilson of Ferguson PD
Shortly after the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, there were several reports that the Jennings Police Department was disbanded in 2011 for complaints of "racial tensions".  This is not the whole story (haven't seen confirmation it was even part of the story), but an attempt to cast a negative light on Wilson by a media that rarely gets the facts right in these high-profile, racially derisive cases.

Jennings Police Department disbanded in 2011 when a joint federal-state investigation revealed that a Jennings police lieutenant had accepted federal money earmarked to pay for DWI checkpoint - the checkpoint never happened.  The police chief, at the time retired but was never implicated in the scandal.  In March of the same year the City council voted to disband the Jennings police department and entered a contract with St. Louis County to police the small town of about 15,000 people.  The demographics for Jennings, Missouri is 90% black, 1% white. Jennings ranked No. 9 in 2010 among Missouri jurisdictions in violent crimes per capita, just behind the City of St. Louis.
Last December an undercover sergeant from Maryland Heights who'd traveled into Jennings for a surveillance job was shot in the face by a would-be carjacker. (He recovered and has since rejoined his force.) In June, a 14-year-old middle-school girl was shot in the face during a dispute among teenagers along Hord Avenue shortly after school broke out. [1]
Once the contract with St. Louis County was implemented, the entire police force for Jennings were laid off.  Fire Chief Zlotopolski told RFT that several former officers learned "bad habits" in other city departments and probably should not have been hired.  There was no effective training on the former police chief's watch,  under which Officer Wilson trained as a rookie.

Shooting Rampage in Kirkwood, Missouri - 2008
Charles "Cookie" Thornton protesting outside of City Hall
While I didn't find anything documented (aside from recent articles), concerning racial tensions between police and Jennings residents, I did find an article about a nearby city, Kirkwood, Missouri.  In 2008 a man named Charles "Cookie" Thornton shot seven people during a City Council meeting, mortally wounding Mayor Mike Swoboda, Kirkwood public works director Kenneth Yost, council member Michael H.T. Lynch, Officer Tom Ballman, Sgt. William Biggs and council member Connie Karr. Thornton was shot twice by officers responding to a panic call. Thornton died from his wounds. Thornton had many run-ins with the council and often accused them of racial discrimination.  His brother, Gerald Thornton, who had been convicted of fatally stabbing a man to death years earlier, opined his brother's rampage was due to anger over not receiving contracts he had been promised by the council.  In March of 2014, the nephew of Charles Thornton ran for Kirkwood city council and lost. [2]

Other officers killed by gunfire in Missouri in the past two years:

Deputy Sheriff Christopher Richard Parsons
Washington County Sheriff's Office, MO
EOW: Saturday, December 15, 2012
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Ambushed by Gary Sancegrow

Police Officer Daryl Anthony Hall
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, MO
EOW: Sunday, April 24, 2011
Cause of Death: Gunfire - Police Officer Daryl Hall was shot and killed when he confronted two gunmen outside a nightclub.

1 - New Jennings Police Commander Tries to Right the Ship
By John H. Tucker Fri., Nov. 11 2011 [link]
2 - Kirkwood City Council Shooting [link]