Illinois State’s Attorney and St. Clair County’s top prosecutor Brendan Kelly is refusing to take any cases Brooklyn police department officers bring to him, stating the department “has gone from dysfunctional to nonfunctional.” Kelly alleges that officers in the department have botched investigations, mishandled evidence and were reckless with firearms.
“The Brooklyn Police Department does not meet even the minimum standards of credibility and reliability for prosecution,” Kelly wrote in a letter to Brooklyn Mayor Vera Glasper-Banks on Wednesday.
“My office cannot in good faith assert to any jury or judge that officer testimony, investigative methods, or physical evidence collection of the Brooklyn Police Department is credible or reliable,” Kelly continued. “Therefore, my office will not issue criminal charges sought by the Brooklyn Police Department at this time.”
In his letter, and in a following news conference, Kelly stated he is in negotiations with state and county law enforcement about “stepping up their visibility in the village.” According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the area is typically investigated by Illinois State Police for violent crimes.
When speaking of his decision, Kelly said he made it “with solemnity and sadness,” but further said, “There is really no other choice.”
Kelly has been clashing with the department since at least last month, when he wrote another letter that alleged an officer mishandled an illegal assault rifle from the evidence vault and many other criticisms.
The allegations corresponded with a raid of the police department last month by sheriff’s deputies and state troopers, who were seen carrying out computers, weapons and boxes of paper.
Kelly’s letter illustrated a department that ignores rules and policies, engages in potentially illegal activities, and has cases thrown out due to systematic incompetence. Kelly’s claims in his letter are as followed:
- Citizens have repeatedly complained about intoxicated officers in Brooklyn adult clubs “causing confrontations during which the officers drew their weapons on civilians.”
- Officers allegedly have been told they would not get paid unless “a sufficient number of vehicles are towed every weekend,” creating the possibility of improper towing as a money-making venture.
- Department video gear repeatedly either malfunctioned or was improperly operated, leaving “numerous occasions” when videotaped statements required by law were inadmissible in court.
- The department can’t account for cash and drugs referenced in police reports, and has no documented chain of custody for 35 guns found in the evidence vault.
- The department maintains little control over that vault, with the key “apparently accessible to anyone at any time.”
Kelly claims to have dropped 21 cases, some of which were felonies.
Brooklyn regularly has violent outbursts, including a fatal shooting Wednesday in a club. Since those crimes are investigated by state police, prosecutions of major crimes should not be interrupted.
Although Mayor Glasper-Banks could not be reached for comment, Kelly says that her concerns were similar to his and that she “planned to seek improvements.” Even though Kelly offered his suggestions, including “contracting police services from some other agency,” he believes that the resolution must come from the leaders of the village.
Kelly announced last month that he would not prosecute any cases that were handled by an officer who took control of “an AR-15 type rifle, an illegal weapon seized as evidence in a pending criminal case.” In his letter, he wrote that the officer bough a case for the rifle, kept it in his car, and “while on duty he posed for a picture holding this rifle, and the picture was used in a [police] department calendar.”
A separate letter written by Kelly last month claimed that in order to increase revenue, village police were pressured to have vehicles towed. The company that was doing the towing, Swansea, is owned by a relative of Brooklyn officer, according to Kelly.
Brooklyn is a small village which consists of about 700 residents along the Mississippi River north of East St. Louis. It is believed to be the first town in the United States incorporated by fugitive slaves prior to the Civil War and is known mostly for its adult clubs. Despite the town’s population being mostly black, the two officers cited in Kelly’s letters are white.
Kelly played a large role in creating the Metro East Police District Commission, which establish regulations for four departments regarding issues such as weapons, search and seizure, arrests, and inventory control.