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Tiny Municipality Better Known After Abusive Cop Video on YouTube

September 13, 2007 Media, St. Louis County, STL Region, Suburban Sprawl 28 Comments

Last month I showed you videos from Jimmy Justice — the New Yorker out to show the world that New York traffic cops, and other officials, park in places where nobody should be paking — such as in front of fire hydrants, bus stops and on public sidewalks. He gets in the face of these officials and screams at them about breaking the law.

Well, by now, most of you have likely heard about the St. Louis area case of a young motorist berated by a cop from the virtually unknown municipality of Saint George (pop. 1,288, google map).

Here is part 1 of the video. Note, the video doesn’t show much but the audio records the entire scenario. The cop uses the f-word often so just make note of that if you are watching at the office, around impressionable ears or just plain offended by the f-word then you may want to skip this one.

The National Association of Motorists, with a slogan of “we fight back against unfair traffic law” has the story with a complete transcript here.

Time for me to get a hidden scooter-cam! This cop may have been having a bad day but that is no excuse in my view — he should have asked to be off duty or done something to get help. He should not be allowed to have a badge, billy club and certainly not a gun. He shouldn’t even be permitted to be a mall security guard! The cop’s attorney says the driver, Brett Darrow, taunts police.
Other sources:

Today’s Post-Dispatch sheds some light on St. George:

It’s one-fifth of a square mile of small brick homes and condominiums — amid a sea of small brick homes and condominiums — at Interstate 55 and Reavis Barracks Road in south St. Louis County.

Like so many of the county’s 91 municipalities, it’s a subdivision with police power, and no shortage of it. Some who have gotten tickets might have wondered why St. George even exists. They can thank moms in two subdivisions, back in 1948, who wanted their kids bused to school. Bayless schools would not send buses. So the subdivisions incorporated as St. George, which allowed them to join Affton schools.

Yes, this is why we have 91 municipalities in St. Louis County — because it was very easy to incorporate. Decades later we are left with tiny villages and towns trying to find ways to pay for services demanded by residents. Like the City of St. Louis of past, these incorporated areas find themselves losing residents as people move further out for newer digs or, ironically, move back to the city for a more urbane lifestyle. So they try to draw big box stores, strip centers and issue as many tickets to motorists as they can.

Getting the city back into St. Louis County is potentially an impossible task, one that requires a statewide vote to change the Missouri constitution. However, consolidating municipalities, school districts and other governmental jurisdictions within St. Louis County is relatively easy. Two subdivisions, that incorporated nearly sixty years ago, do not need to remain separate with its own police force, six aldermen and a mayor.


Currently there are "28 comments" on this Article:

  1. independent says:

    The idea you suggest of disincorporating St. George is an excellent example of the sort of tiny, bite-sized, incremental change that is possibly feasible in St. Louis. Progressives in the STL would be better off pushing for these small changes than trying for the broad, sweeping ones. The only question is, are there any progressives in St. George, Missouri?

  2. pw says:

    Yes another excellent example is Rock Hill – scooter on out there and see the mess that Novus is making along Manchester. Now, they are trying to do a big box on the north side of the road. They are undertaking this with the idea that they can generate enough money to pave the roads and get a city hall built….


  3. margie says:

    Anyone who grew up in North County certainly knows this drill. You do 31 mph in a 30 mph zone (that should probably be a 40 mph zone) on Hanley or North Florissant Road, passing through some municipality that shouldn’t even exist, and their one squad car, with one purpose (and it’s not fighting crime), nails you, and then you find yourself giving $75 to some yoo-hoo in a converted two-bedroom house they call a City Hall/Police Dept. And they wonder why people don’t trust the police more.

    Black people and young people get the brunt. Once when I was 16 (this would be 1978), I was pulled over for “weaving” on Elizabeth Street. The cops made me get out of the car with my sister while they searched the trunk. We were not drinking, and I’m certain I was not weaving. We were going to pick my other sister up at her workplace, Sambo’s on West Florissant. The cops let us go. Coincidentally, the cops ended up sitting at the counter at the restaurant, and they couldn’t see us around the corner where we waited for my sister in a booth. We heard them laughing as they told another waitress about these “two little girls we scared the shit out of just now. Oh, you shoulda seen ’em.” I seethed but said nothing.

  4. Jim Zavist says:

    Perhaps even easier and more palatable to small-town voters would be just consolidating the Police and Fire services into a pair of county-wide, professionally managed and staffed entities. Except for the obvious revenue source, I see little need for 60-70-80 police and fire “chiefs”. Consolidate services, reduce overhead (by eliminating unneeded “management” positions) and you’ll have a system that both works better and costs less to operate. Will it ever happen? Not likely – too much job security and too many egos at stake . . .

  5. dude says:

    School districts probably are the cause of the existance of these way too many municipalities. I used to live in Connecticut and for all the things I thought were inferior of there to here, how we draw our municipal lines, wasn’t one of them. I suspect it will continue for quite some time and it is bankrupt of common sense and fairness for that matter.

  6. independent says:

    JZ has it right. It’s alot about jobs. Ever heard what some of these County firefighters pull down? Some of them make around a hundred grand a year. No wonder they call the STL City police and fire departments “training grounds”. The funny part is, lots of folks in STL County think it’s the city that’s inefficient! What a joke that is…

  7. kuros says:

    i was under the impression that one of the main reasons these municipalities hold on to their independent stature is to obtain FUNDING from state and federal govts

  8. Erin says:

    I would say St. George is extremely well-known throughout St. Louis for the speedtrap it is.

    My first ticket was when I was 16 and got caught around that infamous bend doing 39 in a 35. My friend was caught a few days later doing like, I don’t know, 70 something in a 50 zone elsewhere in St. Louis County. His ticket was about $100. Mine was $225. I had to go to that converted house/courthouse and pay my ticket to the clerk in the kitchen.

    I know its being debated whether this kid baited the cop or not, but even if he did, at least some good will come of all this. Hopefully. This is St. Louis, after all.

  9. Meghan says:

    This guy is a bad-cop. I know of two people who have had run-ins with him. One being pulled over for having temp tags and that was just not acceptable to him – even though the driver had a receipt of purchase from 12 hours earlier.

    Thiis cop is bad news, he has a record, supposedly was caught drinking and driving, which caused him to have trouble finding a job. So what did he do? Ask a judge to expunge his record so he could get a new job. Not good at all! (http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/stlouiscitycounty/story/34992940ABCFBFF886257355000D2A55?OpenDocument_

    Something needs to be done about this guy and his boss (who is just as dirty)

  10. b says:

    Bel-Nor and Bel-Ridge along Natural Bridge by UMSL are also notorious as well. Bel-Ridge got nailed a while back when they had one cop switching a mainly flashing yellow light to red suddenly and another cop would be right there to issue a ticket.

    Whether that kid roamed around and did this on purpose or not, time has come for these car cams.

  11. LisaS says:

    I wish I could say I was astonished by this video, but unfortunately I waited tables in a diner as a teen and I’ve heard cops talking … it’s a far too common occurrence.

    My question: why is it that the same “conservative” County residents who complain about the City’s inefficiencies/cost of government/etc. (I have several in my own family) haven’t realized that they actually pay more for their multiple layers of government than we pay for ours?

  12. GIS Planner says:

    St. George isn’t the only subdivision-city that should consider disincorporating. How about Crystal Lake Park, Country Life Acres, Bella Villa, Marlborough, Lakeshire, Wilbur Park, and Mackenzie?

  13. Charley says:

    I don’t know the root reason for the creation of these little towns, but I can guess – it has to do with people being ignored, like the mothers that wanted school bus service. Look at Wildwood – the County was trying to cram dozens of high-density subdivisions into an area that predominantly had 3-acre lot limits. Outraged residents incorporated.

    The problem with merging cities, as the boundary commission once urged, is far more problematic. Many local cities have business districts where they can collect sales taxes. If they combine, they lose this privilege and everything becomes “pool”, because under the law the combined cities are a new entity and thus not eligible to levy sales taxes. Of cities I am aware of, in West County, if the average city merged with another under the law they would lose all of their tax district and just receive pool income. That could result in a million dollars PER CITY revenue loss. Let’s say you merged Ballwin, Ellisville, and Manchester, as one brilliant local politician (Mayor Young of Ballwin) suggested. The combined revenue loss could be roughly $3,000,000 per year. Plug that into the average municipal budget.

    If the region really wants to reduce the number of communities, this issue must be addressed. Otherwise, this situation creates an insurmountable obstacle to most mergers.

    [SLP — Yes, revenue needs to be considered but so does cost.  But I’m thinking more like going from 91 down to something like three!   The City of South County, The City of West County and the City of North County.]

  14. Lou says:

    I am certainly not trying to be an apologist for this officer, but there is not a doubt in my mind that the camera wielding young man had every intention to provoke and entrap this officer. Certainly, however, that is no excuse for this officer’s reaction. He most assuredly could have handled that situation (and the young man) more respectfully and professionally.

    So with all of that aside, maybe this will be the first step into beginning the elimination of these small departments who hire inexperienced, unprofessional and unqualified officers. Certainly, as an earlier commentator suggested, these officers give the majority of good officers a bad name, and stir mistrust in the public.

    It’s a sad commentary to see someone doubt a positive outcome of this situation by stating, “This is St. Louis, after all.”

    A shame indeed.

  15. Tim says:

    The things this cop said in the video sounded very familiar. This is the norm, not the exception. You have to wonder about anyone that would take that job in the first place but the line is usually either criminal or cop and it’s very thin.

  16. independent says:

    I am tired of hearing how the young man “entrapped” the officer. Gimme a break. COPS do these things ALL THE TIME. The irony of this situation is that it happened in ST. GEORGE, MO. St. George has a reputation for writing excessive speeding tickets, “entrapping” unwitting drivers as they drive the few blocks through that mousefart of a municipality. Yeah, let’s all feel sorry for the entrapped St. George police officer. Waaah, waah, waaah!!! Frankly, myself and I’m sure thousands of other St. Louis area drivers are rather pleased about the whole situation. It would be nice to see the media get all over the issue of these ridiculous little po-po departments in the STL area. Here’s to hoping some of the yahoo police officers out there start to think twice before giving someone else a “bad night”.

  17. Lou says:

    Again, I certainly was not trying to excuse or apologize for the officer in question. It’s obvious from his actions (and from those I know who’ve had personal interaction with him) that this was certainly not a first for him. I also don’t feel bad for the St. George officer, personally I think he’s going to get what’s deserved of him. I just don’t necessarily agree with the tacticts undertaken by the other party in the video, this isn’t the first time he’s done this, and now that he’s gotten the attention it probably won’t be the last. But that still is beyond the point I was attempting to make.

    My hope is the same as yours. Hopefully this will be the catalyst to start getting these small municipalities and and their respective departments to fold up. I know I would certainly prefer my streets be patrolled for crime prevention by a serious, well trained and respected department and not some guy running around with a bullet in his pocket writing every small infraction he can find.

  18. Hmm says:

    I have been stopped in St. George as many of us South Siders know they are a speed trap (as well as Bella Villa.)

    This video made my day…i just hope the cop is fired and things change in that part of St. Louis.

  19. Joe Frank says:

    I seriously doubt this incident will cause anybody to consider municipal mergers more seriously.

    Nor would merging all of St. Louis County into three muni’s be an effective solution. Over the decades from the 1920s to the 1990s, six different attempts at Board of Freeholders (the last called Board of Electors) plans have been shot down by the voters or the courts. Each was a variation on a theme: consolidate governments to save costs and improve efficiency.

    Realistically, we’ll only see ad hoc efforts. Most of South County is still unincorporated, after all. The local identities like Affton, Lemay, Oakville, Sappington and Concord Village are nebulous at best. Only a few pockets like St. George, Bella Villa, etc. are incorporated.

    While some do have well-deserved reputations as speed traps, plenty of muni’s in StL County just contract with the County Police or with an adjacent muni for police service. Maybe there should just be a state law that says that no muni with a population less than, say, 2,000 people, can have its own police department — it must either contract with an adjacent city or with the local County Sheriff/County Police department.

  20. Bob says:

    I agree with Lou. The cop was wrong to react the way he did, but the kid was obviously trying to provoke him. Neither person in this scenario was behaving in a proper manner, in my opinion. There must be more legitimate ways of identifying problem police officers. As was mentioned already, it’s not news that this particular officer is a problem.

  21. independent says:

    Okay, so it’s fine for cops to bait/entrap citizens in various sting operations, but it’s not okay for citizens to entrap bad cops? What’s the difference?

  22. Bob says:

    Who said it is fine for cops to bait/entrap citizens? I said nothing with regard to sneaky traffic cop tactics. However, since you brought it up, I abhor sneaky traffic cop tactics. They should be focusing on violent criminals and drug dealers, not hassling me on my way to work.

  23. Dave says:

    [SLP — Yes, revenue needs to be considered but so does cost. But I’m thinking more like going from 91 down to something like three! The City of South County, The City of West County and the City of North County.]

    If sticking to three, I prefer North County, Mid County and South County….

  24. Lou says:

    I’m with Bob on that one too. I hate driving down (pick any street in south or north county) and the speed limit suddenly drops 10 miles per hour and right around the bend is a copper with a stern look on his face just waiting for you. I’m also opposed to some muni with two coppers sitting on an Interstate highway stopping speeders. They aren’t there to slow people down and make the highways safer to drive on. Several years ago I was riding with a friend south on I-55. He was in the fast lane, doing about 10 miles over and we came upon a smaller department’s police car also in the fast lane. He never tailgated, but kept up with traffic. As we got close to the guy’s jurisdiction he moved over a lane, slowed down and just as we entered the city he sped up and turned on his lights. The guy pulled us over, and as my friend objected pointing out he was just keeping up with traffic (and the officer) he retorted, “I’m the police, I can do that.” Now THAT was a BS ticket!

  25. Chris says:

    I agree with the idea that municipalities should have a certain population to warrant a police department. However, it should only be in areas around St. Louis or Kansas City, and not out in the country where a small town could be isolated and in need of a more local police force.

    There is absolutely no need for St. George to have a police department. I would be interested in seeing the crime statistics for St. George; who many crimes other than traffic offenses do these guys investigate every year?

  26. a.torch says:

    I hope the cop gets fired and St. George is disolved. Before 1992 or ’93 St. George was actually more corrupt and the second turn in that area used to change speeds 4 times, 30 to 25 to 15 to 30….with the St. Geo fuzz always sitting at the bend next to the 15 mph sign. I have NO sympathy for that municipality at all. Also see last years harrassment cases against the cops in St. Geoge and the 2 on-going legal cases against the cops in Bella Villa.

  27. Don says:

    Those of you who think this is some kind of unique case of entrapment aren’t paying attention very much. This isn’t a unique, isolated, small incident. This is something that is fairly common. A small investigation will show you many instances of police officers acting much the same way as this one did, in many cases worse, physically attacking, and often killing suspects. Darrow’s entire trouble ensued when he ran away from a drunk off-duty officer threatened to kill him and /he/ was arrested hours later. Since the time he’s begun filming there have been multiple death-threats issued by officers off-duty, and if he wasn’t filming we would most likely be reading another news blurb about how “And armed suspected parked in a parking lot and was shot and killed by officers last night.” That’s usually how cases where the victim of assault by officers ends up when they aren’t recording every bloody thing on camera.

  28. Sam says:

    I don’t have much sympathy for this “entrapped” cop…if entrapment simply means having a camera to document illegal behavior on the part of this police officer. You think there would be any repercussions without it? The kid certainly wouldn’t have been able to file a complaint (that would actually stick). Sure, he may go “looking” for an incident with cops. But good for him! His motivation seems to stem from a previous run in with a drunk off-duty cop. And so what? Who is policing the police?? I did a combat tour in Iraq and even in the military we were briefed about the Law of Armed Conflict – I couldn’t just threaten a suspected militant if I wanted information or to intimidate him. And trust me, I have had my life threatened personally numerous times…but you just keep your cool and stay professional. Perhaps most cops still follow a similar code of ethics, but that ethic is definitely eroding in our country. Just look around at cops these days – the horrible aggressive attitudes, the militarized uniforms and weaponry…I saw an armed personnel carrier going down the freeway a few months ago in Tacoma – painted black with the police logo on the side…very scary stuff. What ever happened to the notion of questioning authority in this country?


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