St. George officer captured on video berating motorist is fired

Friday, September 21, 2007

ST. GEORGE, Mo. (AP) -- A suburban St. Louis police officer whose berating of a motorist was captured on video has lost his job.

Aldermen in the tiny town St. George voted 5-0 to fire Sgt. James Kuehnlein. The vote occurred Monday in a session closed to the public. Notice of the firing was posted Wednesday at City Hall.

Motorist Brett Darrow, 20, had a video recorder inside his car. He was at a commuter lot near Interstate 55 in the early hours of Sept. 7 when the officer approached the car.

In a video that got wide viewership on the Internet, Kuehnlein is heard taunting and threatening Darrow, sometimes shouting and using profanity.

Darrow had met with Police Chief Scott Uhrig after the incident to ask that Kuehnlein be fired.

"It's what I wanted the whole time," Darrow told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The conduct was not forgivable."

Uhrig said he recommended that aldermen fire Kuehnlein based both on his language in the tape and because he violated department policy. That's because Kuehnlein should have been taping the encounter himself with his police car's camera.

No such footage could be found, though the camera is functional, Uhrig said.

The monthly board of aldermen meeting Thursday night was moved to a community center to accommodate the overflow crowd. About 30 people showed up, some defending their town and saying they were proud of their police force.

"This city needs to keep its own police department," said Mike Mosier, a former St. Louis police officer who has lived in St. George for 42 years.

But Alderman Carmen Wilkerson said she fielded dozens of calls from residents in recent days. She said many were from residents who said they were humiliated and embarrassed by the incident.

Aldermen said they planned to review how officers are hired and said the city attorney had looked into the cost of having St. Louis County patrol the city.

Kuehnlein's attorney, Travis L. Noble, said the officer received a letter Thursday detailing the reasons for his firing. Noble said he would review the letter with his client before deciding on a course of action.

Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,

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