Officer Steven Blakeney Terrorized the St. Louis Area. Why Did No One Stop This Very Bad Cop?

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Officer Steven Blakeney Terrorized the St. Louis Area. Why Did No One Stop This Very Bad Cop?
ILLUSTRATION BY KELLY GLUECK

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click to enlarge Amanda Blakeney says she went 'through the ringer' during her divorce from Steven Blakeney. - PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
PHOTO BY KELLY GLUECK
Amanda Blakeney says she went 'through the ringer' during her divorce from Steven Blakeney.

People speak about Blakeney if he were a natural disaster that blew through their lives, and now they must recover.

The city's Board of Aldermen voted in March to dissolve the entire police department and contract with the new North County Police Cooperative for service. Brown, who was inspired to become an alderwoman after her run-in with Blakeney, says the municipality is trying to let people know it's safe to come to Pine Lawn again.

"We're just in repair mode around here," she says.

Amanda Blakeney has been contacted many times by reporters looking for information on her ex-husband, but only now is she comfortable speaking out. Always before, there were more court dates and the specter of another battle on the horizon. She has gotten into the habit of keeping the shades closed all the time and eying cars parked in her neighborhood. It's hard to believe he's actually locked up somewhere.

"It got to the point where I didn't think anything would happen," she says.

For years, people in Pine Lawn thought the same thing. Despite all the complaints, the letters to public officials and secret meetings with FBI agents, they watched Blakeney roll on, day after day, year after year.

Thomas Harvey, executive director of the ArchCity Defenders nonprofit law firm, says that ousting a bad cop or reforming a corrupt department isn't something the system is set up to do well. Ryals, who worked briefly for ArchCity before departing for Washington, D.C., was rare in that he outlined Blakeney's history. He surrounded him with one case after another and put them together to show that Pine Lawn should have seen the patterns, too.

More often, defense attorneys approach their cases in snapshots.

"Your quality public defenders and your quality private attorneys, they know who the cops are that are a problem, and they know whose credibility to question, and they know how to use that to create leverage in a plea or at a trial," Harvey says. "But they're going to be focused on their client's best interest and the outcome in that case. They're not going to be focused on bringing system-wide litigation to clean up police departments across the region."

The responsibility is often left to an outside agency — maybe a social-justice law firm like ArchCity, maybe POST or even the Justice Department. And it can take dozens of complaints over time to get anyone's attention.

Bland, the ex-cop who says he reported Blakeney to the highway patrol, is now a private investigator. He says Pine Lawn officers knew their bosses weren't going to do anything about Blakeney, and so he and some of the others spent a few nights talking about arresting him themselves. They had become discouraged with what they witnessed and figured no one was coming to help them.

Ultimately, they abandoned the idea, he says, assuming it would end in gunfire.

"Frankly, for nineteen bucks an hour, I'm not going to pull this guy over and get into a shooting and all this shit, because the state of Missouri is going to let this guy be a police officer," says Bland. "It's simply not my problem."

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