Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: Belmar Wants $5,000 for Documents That Back Up MetroLink Commendation

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Messenger: Belmar Wants $5,000 for Documents That Back Up MetroLink Commendation

Article excerpt

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar has a $5,000 secret.

That's how much he wants to charge me to see public documents that verify that the county police officers under his command had an "unprecedented" year in 2016 in terms of protecting citizens on MetroLink transit.

Belmar makes the claim of never-before-seen success in a commendation he issued to the entire MetroLink unit on Nov. 22. That same day, he told the police board that 11 officers in that unit would be reprimanded for various violations of county police policy. They were caught on videotape loitering in offices when they were supposed to be patrolling platforms, covering up the video cameras that were ultimately used against them, and potentially other violations of policy.

We don't know what the reprimands say because Belmar won't provide them. Nor will he provide the investigation that led to the reprimands.

But here's where things get weird:

He also won't provide the "700 arrest reports" and "750 police reports" that he cited as evidence for the unit's extraordinary work, not unless I write him a check for $4,932.95.

That's what Lt. Juan Gomez, the custodian of records for the department, wrote me after I filed an open records request for the documentation that underlies the commendation.

Here's what I asked for:

* All 2016 arrest reports and police reports produced by the MetroLink unit.

* All daily or weekly duty rosters for the county officers assigned to the MetroLink unit in 2016 and 2017.

* All activity or summary reports produced by Capt. Scott Melies for 2016 regarding the MetroLink unit.

Gomez, surely at Belmar's direction, won't provide the duty rosters at all, even though I received similar documents from Metro transit when I asked for them. Those rosters and other Metro records raise questions about Belmar's claims of massive law enforcement activity.

So I asked for the county's records. But Belmar wants to charge me nearly $5,000 for the documents all of them clearly public records. The charges are "to compile and perform any potential appropriate redactions," Gomez wrote.

Here's a question: If the documents weren't already compiled, how did Belmar know how many arrests and reports there were when he issued his commendation?

Answer: It's simply a ruse by a department that is hiding from the truth.

Sadly, such a move is not an uncommon strategy deployed by government officials seeking to avoid disclosure of public documents. …

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