Protesters demand change in Pine Lawn police practices

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PINE LAWN, MO (KPLR) – Outrage boiled over at the Pine Lawn Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night.

Things got so heated, acting Pine Lawn Mayor, Olimes Underwood, abruptly adjourned the meeting and walked out.

Scandals in the North St. Louis County continue to swirl.

In July, former mayor Sylvester Caldwell's was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison for extortion while in office. Former police commander, Lt. Steve Blakeney, faces charges of assault and false arrest.

Another case is now coming to a head.

Bernard Scott, 44, of University City, was jailed a year ago in Pine Lawn for outstanding traffic offenses. He nearly died in the Pine Lawn jail.

His attorney now tells FOX 2 there may be video evidence of Scott being mistreated in the jail.

“What we do want? Justice! What do we want? Justice!” a crowd of about 30 demonstrators shouted as the marched in the Pine Lawn streets before the board meeting.   They called for sweeping changes:  the resignations of aldermen and the city attorney.

The demonstrators were also upset with aldermen considering disbanding their police department and hiring St. Louis County Police to do the job.  Demonstrators called for police reform but not the end of the department.

Then there’s the Scott case.

Scott’s attorney, Jermaine Wooten, says Scott ended up in a coma and may have suffered brain damage after he reported severe abdominal pain in September of 2104; paramedics were called to the jail.

“He was screaming – screaming as a result of the extreme pain.  They noticed the bleeding and the paramedics immediately told pine lawn officials you need to get this guy to the hospital immediately,” Wooten said.

A police supervisor overruled the paramedics and had them escorted out, Wooten said.  Scott remained in his cell.  Within minutes he was near death and unconscious, Wooten said.

“Mr. Scott was found hanging in his cell.  We spoke with Mr. Scott.  He doesn’t remember what happened after the paramedics left… Mr. Scott is absolutely confident someone else did it.  We have requested the DVD.  I understand it may be on video tape.  If we can get that we’ll find out exactly what happened,” Wooten said.

People at the board of aldermen meeting decried other alleged incidents of heavy-handed treatment from police and the aldermen, too.

When pressed for answers by a woman in the crowd, Underwood ordered her to be escorted out of city hall.  The woman kept talking.  Underwood declared the meeting was adjourned and walked out.

Public Safety Director, Maurice Brown, admitted the Scott case concerned him.   He would not otherwise comment on it because he was not with Pine Lawn at the time of the incident.

He did speak about current practices at the jail.

“We always call the paramedics (if an inmate reports he/she is sick). The paramedics tell us ‘yeah they need to go the hospital’ or ‘no they’re just faking it’,” he said.

“If a paramedic says they need to go to a hospital?” asked Fox 2’s Andy Banker.

“We take them right to the hospital,” Brown said.

He also said there’d been a new budget passed and as far as he knew the Pine Lawn Police Department would be in business for at least another year.

Scott is in the St. Louis County Jail for failing to report to his parole officer, Wooten said.  Wooten said it could be attributed to Scott’s diminished mental capacity stemming from his treatment in Pine Lawn.

Scott was to be released this week, Wooten said.

He expects to file a civil suit against Pine Lawn for negligence soon.

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