Rep. Roorda on Ferguson

17 Aug

Representative Jeff Roorda (D – 113th) has a day job as business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers’ Association. As part of his duties, he is quick to come to the defense of policemen who are accused of misconduct. In the Post-Dispatch, he comments on the issue of releasing the name of the officer who shot Mike Brown:

Jeff Roorda, business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, is so opposed to release of the names that as a state legislator he once tried to pass legislation to protect them. “These guys face threats during their eight-hour shifts,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to face them at home.”

Roorda said the public’s right to know can be accommodated through the normal investigative process.

“If they did something wrong, they’re going to be charged criminally and everyone should know what their name is,” he said. He also acknowledged that the name could become public if a lawsuit is filed.

But what if the officer is cleared thanks to an impartial investigation by his own police department? And then he goes out and commits another questionable act? The public would never know that it’s the same guy who keeps offending and getting away with it.

The legislation that snippet refers to is discussed in this Watchdog.org post:

That report will be a public record and, eventually, we will know the name of the man who killed Michael Brown.

But if state Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, had his way, that would not be the case.

Roorda introduced a bill last year to amend the state’s Sunshine Law to prevent the public from obtaining “any records and documents pertaining to police shootings … if they contain the name of any officer who did the shooting.”

The only time the name of an officer would be disclosed, under Roorda’s proposal, would be if the officer ended up being charged with a crime as a result of the shooting. And given police departments’ history of protecting their own from prosecution after they injure or kill suspects, that’s certainly not a very reassuring detail.

In fact, the bill would prevent the public from knowing about police officers involved in any incident in which an individual is shot by a law enforcement officer, regardless of whether the officer was on duty.

Roorda also appeared briefly on the CNN show “Smerconish” (it’s a guy’s name). In a segment in which the moderator did the most talking, Roorda speaks at 2:28, sticking up for Ferguson chief Tom Jackson and asking people to wait until all information comes out. But his comments beginning at the 5:35 mark have gotten some attention. He said:

“The cavalcade of police chiefs around the country going on TV and questioning the merits of this investigation ought to turn their badges in. There’s no place for second-guessing.”

I would argue that there’s plenty of room for second-guessing. Roorda also attended a meeting of regional lawmakers on Thursday that was organized by State Senator Jamilah Nasheed to discuss Ferguson. He was quoted in the Missouri Times as saying:

“I’d like us to think about building bridges between law enforcement officers and the communities they protect,” Roorda said. “I think I could help with that process. One of the problems you have in places like this is that law enforcement and local folks just don’t understand each other.”

I am skeptical, given Roorda’s defense of officers in cases like this, where a cop was caught on video striking a handcuffed suspect, that people in communities like Ferguson will buy what he’s selling. Especially since Roorda strongly opposes the use of lapel and dash cameras that would have quickly revealed what really happened last Saturday on that street in Ferguson.

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2 Responses to “Rep. Roorda on Ferguson”

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  1. The Missouri Torch – The Show-Me Report: August 18, 2014 - August 18, 2014

    […] Jefferson County Penknife: Rep. Roorda on Ferguson […]

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  2. Roorda Leads on Ferguson – The Wrong Way | Jefferson County Penknife - September 15, 2014

    […] Third, Roorda defended the Ferguson chief of police when everyone else in America can see he did a poor job handling the […]

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