Tough Enough

Union Station's security staff makes life difficult for "troublesome" employees

Iain Teall still aches from the beating he took last year.

Teall, 30, was working as a bartender at the Hard Rock Cafe when, he says, he was roughed up by public-safety officers just outside Union Station. He says he was repeatedly struck with metal batons and Maced by the security staff.

His injuries sent him to the hospital, where he was found to have contusions and a concussion. Worse yet, he says, the incident was a case of mistaken identity. "I found out later the officers had been ejecting a group from Hooters," says Teall, "and they thought I was one of them trying to get back in. It was a mistake that they will pay for in court."

Iain Teall says he was assaulted by Union Station security: “Six or seven got me on the ground, cuffed me and beat me with batons.”
Jennifer Silverberg
Iain Teall says he was assaulted by Union Station security: “Six or seven got me on the ground, cuffed me and beat me with batons.”
Andrew Bricker: “Banning should be a last resort.”
Jennifer Silverberg
Andrew Bricker: “Banning should be a last resort.”

Long before Nelly was turned out of Union Station for wearing a do-rag in violation of the dress code, complaints about the enforcement tactics of the mall security force started surfacing. But these complaints didn't come from a celebrity rapper -- instead, Union Station's own employees, its workers and managers, contend that the security force is more interested in targeting mall employees and throwing its weight around than in protecting mall patrons.

There's also the suggestion of a coverup -- the surveillance videotape of the Teall incident was mysteriously taped over, and a police report states that it was likely tampered with.

Union Station spokesman Tom Gorman defends the guards: "They're doing the job they're assigned, and that is to keep peace and harmony in Union Station. And it's a tough job. Six million people -- that's the number of visitors Union Station gets per year. You're bound to have some problems with that many people."

But Key West Café general manager Neill Costello, an eight-year veteran of Union Station, says the mall's security team oversteps its jurisdiction: "They're not really sure who they're working for. They don't realize that they're working for the tenants and the guests. Instead, they've created this atmosphere of intimidation, and they've systematically harassed employees over the years. I could understand if they had a legitimate problems with gangs and violence, but why are they going after the people who have to work here? It doesn't make any sense to me."

Teall, now a manager at Café Eau in the Chase Park Plaza, recalls the night of the incident. He was at Casa Gallardo between shifts, watching the Blues in a playoff game. He left to return to the Hard Rock but realized that he had forgotten his keys. "I went back to get them, and a security officer stationed at the south entrance grabbed me by the arm. Then another one came up and hit me behind the ear. Then the first guy pulled out the Mace and sprayed it right in my eyes. And then more officers came. Six or seven got me on the ground, cuffed me and beat me with batons. They ripped out my eyebrow ring and Maced me again.

"They took me to this room down a long hallway, and they led me there handcuffed, my shirt ripped, pants around my ankles and my shoes gone. I was in there for an hour -- they wouldn't even let me wash out the Mace." He was interrogated and threatened, he says, but finally the city cops arrived and let him go.

Union Station spokesman Gorman says public-safety officers were indeed ejecting a rowdy bunch from the mall but also alleges that Teall, drunk and truculent, "inserted himself into the situation" and fought with security officers. Five people had trouble holding him down, Gorman says. The police report from May 18, 2001, lists seven public-safety officers as suspects in the second-degree assault on Teall. According to Jeannette Graviss of the St. Louis circuit attorney's office, warrants on the suspects were applied for on July 25, 2001. The case was reviewed by an assistant circuit attorney, who determined that there was not enough evidence to proceed.

A surveillance camera was aimed at the area where the incident occurred. But the tapes, later seized as evidence, had, in the opinion of St. Louis Police Department lead production technician Bob Steckhan, been tampered with. The pertinent videotape, watched by Steckhan and two detectives, showed ten seconds of nighttime surveillance before "the video went directly to a daytime freeze-frame shot that was continuously recorded on the cassette tape," says the police report, written by Detective Sergeant Courtland Ramey.

In recent weeks, African-Americans have expressed wrath over the Union Station dress code, which bans the wearing of "commonly known gang-related items," including bandannas and do-rags of any color. Under the same policy, a person cannot enter the mall wearing a hat tilted or turned to the side or with a single sleeve or pant leg rolled up. At protest rallies held twice so far this month at Union Station, protesters marched through the complex vocalizing -- with the aid of bullhorns -- allegations of discrimination and racial profiling.

Union Station's policies allow its security to ban troublesome employees from mall property. Banishment is tantamount to job termination, because a banned employee who tries to go to work can be detained and arrested by the "real" police for trespassing. And even though Missouri public-health statues dictate that kitchen workers wear hair restraints, says Key West Café kitchen manager Keith Little, "they banished one of my cooks because he had a wave cap to keep his hair in place. K.J. can't come back until he talks to [head of security] Jim Scavatta. It was the third time that security had warned him," says Little, "but when you're at work, you're at work. I could see their point if it was a red or blue scarf, but a black wave cap to keep your hair in place ... I never knew black to be a gang color."

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