Mo. police officer suspended after exchange on video

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

ST. GEORGE, Mo. (AP) -- A suburban St. Louis police sergeant is on unpaid suspension, accused of threatening a driver who caught the exchange on video camera.

The recording, posted on Google Video and YouTube on the Internet, brought more than 300 protest calls to St. George Police Chief Scott Uhrig. "I was very displeased when I saw the actions on the video," Uhrig told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Tuesday's edition. "My officers are not trained and taught to act like that."

Sgt. James Kuehnlein is suspended pending further investigation.

Brett Darrow, 20, of St. Louis, said he was the driver who recorded the exchange. He posted it online Saturday.

"I wanted everybody to see that this kind of stuff does happen," Darrow said. "I thought if I just go to the chief or whatever, it would just get swept under the rug."

In the video, Kuehnlein, a St. George officer for about two years, approaches a young man who was sitting in a parked car about 2 a.m. in a commuter lot in south St. Louis County. Kuehnlein asks for identification.

When Darrow asks whether he did anything wrong, the officer orders him out of the car and begins shouting.

"You want to try me? You want to try me tonight? You think you have a bad night? I will ruin your night. Do you want to try me tonight, young boy?" Darrow says no.

"Do you want to go to jail for some (expletive) reason I come up with?" the police officer says. Later, Darrow says, "I don't want any problems, officer."

"You're about to get it," Kuehnlein said. "You already started your (expletive) problems with your attitude."

After the officer notices the camera, he says, "I don't really care about your cameras, 'cause I'm about ready to tow your car, then we can tear 'em all apart."

After about 10 minutes, Darrow is allowed to go.

A listed number could not be found for Kuehnlein for comment.

Darrow told the Post-Dispatch he pulled into the commuter lot to meet a friend. When the officer asked him for identification, Darrow said he didn't immediately present it because he believes the officer stopped him without probable cause.

Darrow said he installed the cameras in his Nissan Maxima after past run-ins with police. He said he was involved in a physical confrontation in 2005 with an off-duty St. Louis police officer, in a case Darrow said was later dismissed.

Darrow said he plans to meet with Uhrig today to discuss the weekend incident.

Chief Uhrig said Kuehnlein stopped to talk to Darrow because police have received reports of thefts from cars in the area. But, Uhrig said, based on his viewing of the online video, the officer acted inappropriately when he threatened to make up charges, and used a disrespectful tone and inappropriate language.

He said the behavior is not representative of his department.

"We don't do that," Uhrig said. "Someone either violated the law or they didn't. You don't say, I'll lock you up and then come up with why afterward."

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