Officers Assigned to Protect St. Louis County Executive May Have Abused Regional Background Checks

By Michael Klazema on 2/6/2014

A pair of St. Louis police officers who were charged with protecting Charlie Dooley, the St. Louis County Executive, are being investigated internally after evidence suggested that they were abusing their access to a local background check system. According to Tim Fitch, the county chief, the two officers are the subject of an inquiry that is currently working to determine whether or not the St. Louis background check interface – codenamed REJIS (for Regional Justice Information Services) – was used to conduct unauthorized background checks.

Supposedly, Dooley’s security detail utilized REJIS to run criminal background checks on some of the County Executive’s potential political opponents. Whether or not Dooley was involved in the unauthorized screenings remains to be seen. It is difficult to know at this point if the County Executive urged his protecting officers to dig up dirt on his opponents or if the officers simply acted of their own accord. Dooley did release a statement denying any role in corrupt use of the background check system. He said that he had neither accessed the system himself, nor asked his security officers to do so.

Regardless of the reasoning for the background check abuse, however, Tim Fitch told a local CBS affiliate that any use of the REJIS system not directly related to “criminal justice service” would have to be considered a violation of county rules and would result in disciplinary action. In other words, Dooley’s involvement or lack of involvement with the case won’t change things much for the two accused officers, who may end up facing termination for their uncalled for background investigations.

Fitch first raised suspicion about the two officers last fall, when he found that they had run an unauthorized background check on David Spence, a former candidate in both the 2012 Missouri gubernatorial election and for a spot on the police board that opened up in August of 2013. Dooley nominated Spence personally for the latter position, though Spence ultimately dropped out of the running over disagreements with a piece of legislation that would have required him to submit to a background check. Background screenings are mandatory for all police board nominees and members in Missouri. In a letter to Dooley, Spence said that the background check would create “possible exposure” that he found “unnecessary and unacceptable.”

Dooley’s detractors will likely try to connect him to the unauthorized background checks by citing a motivation to learn precisely what Spence was trying to hide. However, it is also perfectly possible that Dooley’s protecting officers had the same motivations and simply acted alone. Further investigations will seek to shed more light on the matter.

St. Louis’s Regional Justice Information Services are utilized for numerous different applications throughout the state. The database consists of everything from state and federal criminal records to court records. The officers looking into the background of David Spence could have discovered a lot about him from REJIS, including arrest histories, traffic violations, and more.


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