ST. LOUIS – Persistent questions about conditions at the St. Louis Justice Center were part of the discussion during Monday night’s meeting of the City of St. Louis Department of Public Safety Detention Facilities Oversight Board.
The board voted Monday to move forward with an investigation into the death of detainee Carlton Bernard. FOX 2 recently reported on how the board was surprised to hear about Bernard’s death.
There was debate Monday over whether the committee could investigate at the same time the police are investigating and whether that would violate the ordinance creating the oversight board. In the end, board members voted to move forward.
After the vote, board chair Rev. Darryl Gray said, “Our job is to ensure that the rights of detainees are not violated and that everyone who sets foot in that center, be a detainee, guard, or administrative staff, are safe and secure and that there’s no violation of their health.”
Earlier in the day, the St. Louis City NAACP and the Missouri Baptist State Convention of Missouri released a statement calling for greater transparency. Adolphus Pruitt II, president of the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP, questioned how much cooperation the oversight board will receive from those in authority.
“I doubt that they seriously want to put you in position where you can uncover things that increases or enhances liability against the city,” Pruitt told the board.
Activist Jamala Rogers encouraged the board not to be deterred.
“You have been empowered by citizens who pay the salaries of the folks who are keeping you from doing your job,” she said.
Officials with the Department of Public Safety have said detainees are fed three meals per day and offered phone and video calls.
A department spokesperson sent the following statement to FOX 2:
The Department of Public Safety, which includes CJC, is committed to the Civilian Oversight Board being able to perform their duties per the ordinances 71430 and 71647. In line with national standards across other cities for oversight boards, all board members must first complete orientation training and consultation of their procedures and protocols. Since forming in June 2022, the DFOB had more than one year to complete their orientation training and the consultation, which was not done. In May 2023, DPS requested the support of Nicolle Barton in the Mayor’s Office to move these trainings forward. Barton, Executive Director CJCC, has worked in consultation with other departments identified in ordinance 71647 to expeditiously move the policies and procedures forward.
In coordination with Barton, who formerly led the Civilian Oversight Board, DFOB Board members have completed six of the required 11 trainings in just three months. Another training is scheduled for tonight’s meeting. Since May 2023, the DFOB also voted on and approved a complaint form – another necessary step that had not been completed under the previous commissioner’s tenure.
DFOB cannot become effective or activated until it is compliant with the law. Otherwise, the detainees, investigations, and the City of St. Louis are at risk. The Department of Public Safety finds that the comments in the letter from the NAACP, signed by Adolphus M. Pruitt II, and Rev. Linden Bowie, are reckless and distributed publicly without first requesting the facts. To suggest that the DFOB has not been allowed to do their work is based on assumptions and is just not true.
The Aug. 22, 2023, CJC incident is under criminal investigation.The ordinance does not allow COB or DFOB to interfere with a criminal investigation (ordinance 71647, section 4, subsection b, Non Interference). Incidentally, just two board members attended the detention facilities operation training on Saturday, August 26th. We will work to schedule further opportunities in the weeks ahead.
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