ST. LOUIS — St. Louis aldermen on Friday called on the interim police chief to defend the department’s handling of protests in the wake of criticism that has included a lawsuit and calls for an independent investigation.
The Board of Aldermen approved a resolution to have interim Chief Lawrence O’Toole appear before the Public Safety Committee. It wasn’t immediately clear when he would appear. A police spokeswoman said O’Toole hasn’t seen the resolution or been invited to the committee.
A St. Louis judge on Sept. 15 acquitted white former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley in the 2011 shooting death of 24-year-old black drug suspect Anthony Lamar Smith after a chase. The decision set off protests in a region still tense from unrest stemming from the fatal 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri.
Some of the approximately 300 people arrested during protests have claimed that police taunted demonstrators and were too quick to use force, tear gas and pepper spray. Those who have criticized the handling of the protests by police also say officers have arrested people who weren’t involved in the demonstrations, including journalists.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri filed a lawsuit in September alleging that police violated people’s civil rights during the protests.
O’Toole has defended the officers, noting that more than 30 of them have been injured during protests. Still, both he and Mayor Lyda Krewson have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation of police actions.