Police agencies fight over Metrolink crime response

ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR) - St. Louis City and County Police have warned Metro security to back off. Metro Transportation security is refusing. Fox 2's Chris Hayes discovered the battle over your safety.

Suspected drug traffickers attacked a man on a train last December. They were wearing masks, yet had no fear, as they savagely beat a man because he declined to buy marijuana. A man, a row away, watched and smiled. St. Louis City police arrested two men for the attack.

FOX 2, through a Sunshine request, obtained two letters. The first, is scathing joint letter from the St. Louis City and County Police Chiefs. It tells Metro, "Your employees are not police officers. The use of patrol canines by the metro public safety department shall cease immediately."

The letter details “(a) citizen was bitten twice by your canine after being sprayed with pepper spray by security officers.”

Chiefs Belmar and Dotson ordered, "The red and blue lights must be removed from your vehicles;" and they criticized Metro for, "improper searches."

Metro's police chief fired back. Chief Richard Zott said his employees would continue to use dogs to, "deter crime and potential terrorist activity.”

He argued his officers are “... (Authorized to do) search and seizure.”

Metro’s chief questions if County and City officers are riding trains. He claims the officers "have failed to answer radio calls,” even one involving "an illegal weapon." Metro's chief said his officers stopped the suspect, called for help, and nobody responded.

County police spokesman Shawn McGuire says crime is down on Metro for a second year. "We`re proud of our officers there. We`re proud of our contract. We think it`s important for people to feel safe on the trains and that`s why we added the 22 officers in March. We wanted
that police presence.”

At about the time or our interview, I started getting calls from other St. Louis County employees. They wanted to remain anonymous, but told me Metro's Chief is politically motivated. They said Metro is making a secret play to start its own police force and county leaders want no part of yet another sub-standard police department.

I questioned Metro's Chief about the allegation.

“I don`t think we've ever said we're going to start our own police department. We have to protect our customers. We have to protect our passengers, regardless of anything else and I think the way to do that is to work collaboratively as partners.”

Zott believes his officers already have police powers.

”The confusion might be is that we have authority under a Federal Compact.” Zott said it’s a Compact signed in 1949 by President Truman. He says Metro prefers a supporting role. He added, “In any organization where you have more than one entity, in this case we have five entities working together, almost like a task force concept, you`ll always have instances of miscommunications and things like that. I think that`s the nature of working collaboratively with a number of different agencies.”

Caught in the middle are riders. Brad Waldrop was the victim of a strong armed robbery caught on camera last fall.

”The County officers listened to me explain that I was involved in a robbery, where someone threatened my life and they just listened, kind of talked to each other and said, uh we can`t help you and they left.”

He said there was confusion because he hit the emergency call button in Clayton, but was robbed on a moving train while it was still in St. Louis.

Waldrop said he later filed a report with St. Louis Police and got results.  He added that most people wouldn't take the time to folow up, but he rode his bike to a St. Louis substation where several bicycle cops spent hours reviewing Metro surveilance.  He said one of the officers later spotted the suspect and arrested him.

Read the two letters obtained by Fox 2 here:

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