Clayton, MO – It didn’t take Wesley Bell long to shake things up in the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s Office or to draw the criticism of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, the elected bargaining representative for most of the St. Louis County assistant prosecutors, including two of the three prosecutors who Bell suspended recently pending termination on only his second day in office.
The prosecutors voted join the Police Officers Association last month.
“While there has not been time to bargain a union contract, Prosecutor Bell should understand that this Union is the authorized representative for these two prosecutors,” union president Ed Clark said in a news release. “It is regrettable that Mr. Bell did not inform the Association of these suspensions, notify them of their right to have a representative, or provide an explanation to the union after-the-fact.”
On Jan. 2, Bell fired veteran assistant prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh, who was primarily responsible for presenting evidence to the grand jury that declined to indict a Ferguson police officer in the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown.
The other prosecutors, who were suspended pending termination hearings, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, are Ed McSweeney, a 34-year veteran of the office who criticized Bell in an August Facebook post, and Jennifer Coffin.
“The Association is dismayed by the abrupt dismissal of these three veteran prosecutors without warning or apparent justification,” Clark continued. “Despite Mr. Bell’s rhetoric about building bridges with career prosecutors, he has apparently decided to suddenly discharge three dedicated public servants in his first hours in office. We call on Mr. Bell to reverse his decision and bring back the three prosecutors and their more than seventy years of combined experience.”
In a break with the hardline law-and-order stance of his predecessor, Robert McCulloch, Bell campaigned on a reformist agenda and issued policy changes last week that included:
• No longer prosecuting marijuana possession cases of fewer than 100 grams.
• Not prosecuting people who fail to pay child support.
• Not requesting cash bail on misdemeanor cases.
• Not seeking to “overcharge” defendants “to pressure the accused to admit guilt.”