St. Louis County Police Board Reprimands Chief Belmar over Letter for Drug Dealer

By Byers, Christine | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 28, 2016 | Go to article overview

St. Louis County Police Board Reprimands Chief Belmar over Letter for Drug Dealer


Byers, Christine, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


CLAYTON * The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners voted Wednesday to issue a written reprimand to Chief Jon Belmar for writing a letter to a judge in support of a drug dealer.

Chairman Roland Corvington announced the action after a 3-0 vote. No document was released.

He then asked for a motion to adjourn, but added: "Chief, if I may, you continue to have the full support of this board."

The chief replied, "Thank you, sir."

Belmar, who marks two years as chief this month, declined through a spokesman to comment.

Commissioners Corvington, Laurie Westfall and T.R. Carr voted. Lawrence Wooten was absent. The board's fifth spot has been vacant for about a year.

The Post-Dispatch revealed earlier this month that Belmar and County Executive Steve Stenger wrote letters last fall in advance of the sentencing of Michael Saracino II.

Stenger's letter asked for leniency; Belmar's cited Saracino's supportive family and expressed confidence that Judge Catherine D. Perry would do the right thing.

Stenger has said he didn't believe Belmar did anything wrong in writing the letter. On Wednesday, Stenger declined an interview request and issued a statement that says: "The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners is an independent body. I will not comment on their decision."

Board members are appointed by the county executive, and they appoint the chief. Stenger's predecessor, Charlie A. Dooley, named all of the current members. Stenger has not yet appointed a replacement for Michael Saracino's uncle, John Saracino, who resigned a year ago to become a full-time aide to Stenger.

John Saracino quit the aide's post, which paid $130,000 a year, after the letters came to light. He said it had become a distraction to the administration.

Earlier in Wednesday's meeting, Belmar asked the board to consider adopting a more specific general order regarding "character reference testimony." He said the issue is generally captured in the department's general orders, but "unless you are in the Internal Affairs Division, you are not going to understand it. …

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