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The search for a secret audit of SLMPD’s Force Investigative Unit

Justice Jones-Bey, 5, holds a sign calling for justice for Mansur Ball-Bey on June 2, 2016, as family members walk away from St. Louis city court. They found out the officers who killed Ball-Bey last year will not be charged.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Justice Jones-Bey, 5, holds a sign calling for justice for Mansur Ball-Bey on June 2, 2016. Mansur Ball-Bey's 2015 killing by St. Louis police officers is one of only three cases in which the SLMPD Force Investigative Unit released a public report.

A special unit within the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department was the subject of a damning audit in 2018. Six years later, only portions of that audit have found their way to the public eye. The full audit has never been released.

What we do know should raise alarm, argues St. Louis Post-Dispatch metro columnist Tony Messenger. Messenger obtained portions of the audit and wrote about his findings. The audit, he reported, documented problems in all 50 of the unit’s investigations of police shootings between 2014 and 2018.

“The idea behind the [Force Investigative Unit] was [that] police were going to have a separate, independent unit that was going to investigate every time there was a police shooting,” Messenger said. “Then the unit would produce that report to the public so that the public can have some transparency. This is the major problem that I found with the Force Investigative Unit: First of all, there's been no transparency in terms of the reports becoming available to the public.”

Only three reports from the unit have ever been released, and none is more recent than the 2015 police shooting of Mansur Ball-Bey.

“The fact that they investigated themselves, and found multiple problems with the Force Investigative Unit investigations, and then tried to keep that audit secret — that was really offensive to me,” he said. “The police have offered no explanation whatsoever for their belief of what's in this audit, what it says, or why they want to keep it secret.”

For more on the audit of the St. Louis’ Force Investigative Unit, including Tony Messenger’s insight into the ongoing legal efforts to obtain it, listen to St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast or by clicking the play button below.

Listen to Tony Messenger on 'St. Louis on the Air'

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."