Clayton, MO – The police union has spoken out and condemned the new St. Louis County prosecutor’s plan to stop issuing warrants for many “shockingly heinous offenses.”
Wesley Bell, the new prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County, released a memo on his first day in office that said prosecutors would issues summonses instead of warrants for Class D and E felonies, KSDK reported.
“The St. Louis County Police Association hopes that Mr. Bell reconsiders these changes which immediately impact St. Louis County’s most vulnerable people, specifically, women and children,” Joe Patterson, the president of the police union, wrote in a statement released Friday.
Under Bell’s proposed changes, prosecutors would no longer issue warrants when suspects commit second-degree rape, fourth-degree child molestation, sexual contact with a student, possession of child pornography, abuse/neglect of a child, second-degree burglary, and second-degree domestic assault, according to KSDK.
Instead, under Bell’s regime, prosecutors will issue summonses with court dates for those alleged offenders.
The police union’s statement said the abolishment of warrants for such “appalling crimes” places the citizens of St. Louis “at risk for repeat victimization.
“Law enforcement agencies throughout St. Louis County must now enforce the laws with one hand tied behind their backs,” Patterson said in the statement. “Many of the crimes for ‘summonses’ rather than arrest warrants includes shockingly heinous offenses.”
Bell’s changes do have some exceptions, according to KSDK.
If the victim of a misdemeanor has physical injuries or if the suspect is a danger to the victim, the prosecutor has the discretion to request a warrant or cash bond in lieu of issuing a summons.
Prosecutors will also have the same discretion with D and E felonies, KSDK reported.
If the suspect is considered a threat to the victim or a witness, if the suspect has more than one prior conviction involving the same victim, or if the suspect has failed to appear in court twice in the past two years, the prosecutor may request a warrant or cash bond.
However, the suspect’s failure to appear must have occurred as an effort to avoid prosecution, according to the prosecutor’s new plan.
Examples of what would merit a warrant included evading police upon arrest and using an alias in a police encounter, KSDK reported.
Furthermore, prosecutors will only file charges that they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt at the time of filing, instead of using the probable cause standard that is generally accepted nationwide.
The St. Louis County Police Association president’s memo said the union was looking forward to working with Bell and his entire staff, but implored them to reconsider their detrimental policy changes.
“We understand that Mr. Bell has a vision and that change is expected, but many of these new policies are a step backwards for every citizen in St. Louis County,” Patterson wrote.