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Op-Ed: How the St. Louis Circuit attorney’s anti-police agenda led to the indictment of a pro-cop Republican governor

Gov. Eric Greitens (Eric Greitens/Facebook)

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Some have been shocked at the indictment of Republican Governor Eric Greitens by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. But there’s little reason to be: Kim Gardner is the most anti-law enforcement Circuit Attorney to ever hold that job.

Elected in a city that still seethes in the aftermath of the 2015 Ferguson protests, Kim Gardner’s anti-police and anti-law enforcement position actually won her votes with a portion of St. Louis’s population.

So why she did decide to go after Missouri Governor Eric Greitens? That’s obvious: there are few Governors in the country as intensely pro-law enforcement as Greitens.

I speak from personal experience. In 2016, I was ambushed and shot in the face in the line of duty. From that day on, the Governor stood with me—visiting, texting, checking in on me and my family. He’s gone out of his way to make sure I had everything I needed, and to this day, it chokes me up thinking about his support. He did so much—and so consistently—that I’d often wonder how he stood by my side and did everything else required of his job.

His campaign was shaped by Ferguson and the riots. During his campaign, Greitens was deeply critical of the state response to the Ferguson protests, arguing convincingly that cops had their hands tied during the protests by liberal politicians too squeamish to do the tough and right things to restore peace.

Since taking office, that’s exactly what he’s done. The Governor has been visible and vocal in his support of police officers and first responders—attending funerals, rushing to bedsides after police shootings, passing laws that strengthen the penalties for assaults on law enforcement, and through a range of messages and tweets and posts, making sure that the men and women who keep our streets safe know that they have a Governor who stands with them. My friends in law enforcement—to a person—have said some version of the following, “God, it’s good to finally have a Governor who has our backs.”

His pro-law enforcement credentials were on full display during last year’s ruling in the police shooting case of Officer Jason Stockley. Tensions ran high in St. Louis; many were calling for another round of Ferguson-style protests, promising to burn the city to the ground if Officer Stockley wasn’t convicted. National groups—including antifa—were mobilized and ready.

And the Governor had none of it. He deployed the National Guard early, met with members of the clergy in the days running up the decision, set up a command center well before the verdict, and was himself seen traveling the streets and talking to law enforcement. A quote that traveled far and wide from that protest came from the Governor himself: “In Missouri, if you loot and riot, the only safe space you’re going to have is in a jail cell.”

How did Stockley turn out? A few broken windows; a few vandals hauled off to jail. No sustained and violent protests. Peace restored, in a matter of days.

Importantly, the Governor didn’t unnecessarily politicize that situation. He promised people peace in the streets, but he also assured people that their rights to protest would be protected. For those in law enforcement, the Stockley case wasn’t easy. The only reassuring thing about the whole ordeal was the Governor’s calm demeanor.

To Kim Gardner and her BLM supporters, Greitens represented a real threat: a Navy SEAL Governor calling for peace, but someone who also took action and who made no bones about enforcing the law and standing behind those who do.

Greitens needed to be stopped.

So Gardner did what politically-motivated prosecutors with an agenda do: she went sniffing for a crime the Governor had committed. Moments after news of an affair hit the headlines, Gardner had launched her investigation and sent a signal to her supporters: this is how we get him. From a more capable and thoughtful prosecutor, such an action might be taken seriously. But during her tenure as Circuit Attorney, Gardner has given the public ample reason to question her skills, credibility, and seriousness.

The best example: Citing the fact that her office couldn’t get access to certain police records, Gardner once asked for over a million dollars to allow her office to conduct its own investigations into police shootings. Only one problem: the reason for the evidence not finding its way to Gardner’s office was that there weren’t enough staff members on Gardner’s team. As one local editorial board noted, “the prosecutor who previously received [that evidence] left the office months ago, and no replacement has been designated.”

This makes sense, given what we know about Gardner’s leadership during her time as Circuit Attorney. She has hemorrhaged staff since taking office, with a turnover rate over three times higher than her predecessor. Eighteen prosecutors have quit or been fired; several were quoted in a damning report published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch, outlining management turmoil and Gardner’s own weaknesses as a prosecutor and leader.

All of which casts serious doubt on the methods and the motives behind Gardner’s investigation of Gov. Eric Greitens. Already, serious doubts have been raised about whether Gardner has followed the law while enforcing the law. Her office reportedly took this case to the FBI, the US Attorney, and the local police. Each one declined to investigate, which should tell us all something about the case itself.

Because none of those bodies would look into it, she was forced to mysteriously hire outside, out-of-state private investigators to speak to elected officials and others. Whether those people were registered to do that work and sworn in to do it remains a question that she refuses to answer. It is, as one public safety official put it, “totally nuts, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in all my years of law enforcement.”

Nuts — perhaps. Except when you consider that Gardner isn’t looking to conduct a fair and impartial investigation into whether a law was violated. What she is doing is carrying water for Black Lives Matter, Antifa, George Soros, and the many other groups on whose support she depends. She sees a law-and-order Governor—and she attacks as only an anti-law enforcement prosecutor would.

There is, in fact, nothing shocking about Gardner’s indictment of Greitens. It is entirely in keeping with her politics and the politics of her supporters. The truly shocking thing will be if this kangaroo court is allowed to proceed. If so, law enforcement personnel around the country should be worried about what fringe elements can get away with. Law enforcement has had few better friends in high office than Governor Eric Greitens, and to those who share that view, and stand behind law enforcement themselves, it’s time to stand up to the forces trying to take a law-and-order Governor down.

Tom Lake is a retired St. Louis Police Department Sergeant.