Easy Answers

The facts about two high-profile police shootings remain muddled, but is a review panel really pressing for the truth?

Chasnoff and his wife, Susie, who has also attended every committee meeting, were particularly aghast when the panel decided it didn't need to review transcripts of St. Louis County grand-jury proceedings in the Green shooting. "The only record of fact is the grand jury," Chasnoff notes. "All the witnesses are there, and they're testifying under oath. Otherwise, you're just getting the police synopsis of what somebody else said when they weren't under oath -- and that seems to me like a really ridiculous way to go about getting the facts when you have something obviously better at your disposal. We made the point to them that if they didn't look at the grand jury, they couldn't pretend to really be investigating the facts and should only make the most general statements about the incident as a result."

Transcripts could also have helped quell suspicion among activists that McCulloch -- whose father, a policeman, was killed in the line of duty -- goes easy on cops involved in shooting cases. By making transcripts public, skeptics and supporters could decide for themselves whether the prosecutor's office fairly presented the Green case to grand jurors, who declined to issue indictments.

But first, transcripts would have to be created from tapes of the grand-jury proceedings. That would have cost an estimated $4,000. The panel, after listening to the cops defend themselves, decided they'd heard enough and didn't want to spend the money. That leaves Chasnoff flabbergasted. As a taxpayer in a county of nearly 1 million people, Chasnoff says, he'd gladly pay his share to get the transcripts. He points out that the police have already spent plenty of money putting their spin on things. "I wonder what the cost of the police time, making their presentations, I wonder what that has cost," he says.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch
Jennifer Silverberg
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch

John King, a land-use attorney who serves as the panel's chairman, says he's not surprised by criticism. "I'm sure those concerns are out there: what should we be doing and how should we be doing it and that we should be taking some action in that area of talking to others besides just the police department," he says.

Although some panel members have talked about bringing things to closure, King says he doesn't think the committee is finished. "I'm not in that mode yet," he says. "I think that probably we will look at a lot of things, some more things, before it's all over with." Among other things, King says, he wants to examine how police use informants in drug cases. And he plans to talk with defense attorneys outside panel meetings in an attempt to make informed decisions. "I've talked to a lot of outside people," he says. "I've talked to a former St. Louis city officer, a black officer. I've talked to a black officer in the county. I intend to talk to some other people. That all goes toward making up my decision about what's going on.

"Hopefully we can somehow begin a process of getting a better relationship between the police department and the general public," King says. But that may prove impossible if the public's attitude toward the committee itself doesn't change first.

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