Representatives for Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s Office fired back on Thursday against police union spokesman Jeff Roorda’s “atrocious misrepresentation of the facts” in Gardner’s Dec. 23 traffic stop and against his call for one of Gardner’s investigators to be arrested.
Redditt Hudson, diversion specialist of Gardner’s office, said that Roorda is not a St. Louis city police officer and does not work for the city, but is “afforded these platforms to misrepresent facts consistently.”
“We think this is a pattern of behavior with him: character attacks, false information, accusations of lies,” Hudson said at a Jan. 23 press conference held at Gardner’s office. “Jeff Roorda lost his job as a law enforcement officer for falsifying a police report and has consistently provided incorrect and false information. This time is no different.”
Roorda responded after the press conference that it was Gardner who lied about the amount of time the traffic stop took and on what day it happened.
The traffic stop made national news after Gardner spoke about it in a CBS interview, where she also talked about her federal lawsuit alleging a civil rights conspiracy against the City of St. Louis, the St. Louis Police Officers Association, Roorda and others. In an interview with the St. Louis American earlier this month, Gardner said the traffic stop was the officer’s way of “making a point” and reflected the general hostility she has experienced from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
A police spokesperson said the department could not comment on the incident because there’s an Internal Affairs Investigation being conducted.
Gardner told the American that around 6 p.m. on Dec. 24 (which Hudson clarified to be Dec. 23), she had left the Carnahan Courthouse and drove to the main post office on Market Street to put holiday cards in a mailbox. She saw police lights pull up behind her.
“I know I’m not doing anything, I know I’m not going fast,” she told the American. After she stopped, the officer told her that her lights were off and took her license and registration. She called her chief investigator because she felt the area where she parked was obscured from public view. Gardner also felt the officer’s tone was “aggressive.”
“As a female by myself, in that dark little place over where the boxes are, I’m like, no one knows where I’m at,” Gardner said.
At the Jan. 23 press conference, Hudson said that her instinct to be leery was valid, “in the context of everything that’s been going on in the Circuit Attorney’s Office and with the police department and the history of policing in our city relative to traffic stops and black people in general.”
“I think that she could reasonably believe that this was an intimidation tactic,” Hudson said. “It was a city vehicle that he stopped, with city plates.”
After the story came out, Roorda claimed that Gardner’s investigator tried to intimidate the police officer, interfered with the police stop and should have been arrested. At the press conference, Hudson showed surveillance video from the incident, where the police officer shook the investigator’s hand twice.
“At no point in that encounter is there evidence that that officer had an apprehension of some negative contact from the chief investigator who’s there,” Hudson said.
Members of the press questioned why Gardner has said the traffic stop lasted 15 minutes, instead of the actual approximately six to seven minutes duration. Hudson said that estimate was based off of facts the police department provided Gardner’s office.
Gardner has requested a public investigation into this incident based on Roorda’s public comments that Gardner’s investigator was supposedly “belligerent,” Hudson said.
Moments after the press briefing, Roorda gathered news cameras around himself in the hallway outside the Circuit Attorney’s Office to give his own version of the story — one in which he, as he had done earlier, accused Harris of attempting to undermine the police officer’s work.
When asked by reporters if the appearance of racism by members in the St. Louis Police Officers Association, including himself, may have led Gardner to see this as an intimidation tactic, Roorda responded, “I’ve never made a racist statement. You can’t point to one.”
This is false. There is Roorda’s inflammatory “Happy Alive Day” post with a picture of Darren Wilson on the fifth anniversary of Michael Brown’s shooting death in Ferguson.
Just in June, Roorda made a Facebook post calling people to adopt the Punisher Blue Lives Matter symbol as their profile pictures, in protest of Gardner “penalizing” two city officers for posting the image. Police departments across the country have prohibited their officers from using it as a “pro-police symbol” because it encourages police to be the judge, jury and executioner and has been called racist in context that it’s being used. In 2017, the Punisher logo became a symbol during the United the Right rally, a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Following the rally, it was then co-opted by alt-right and hate groups throughout the country, which Marvel condemned. The Marvel comic’s writer Gerry Conway told Newsweek in July that police posting the image on their cop cars was the equivalent of “a Confederate flag on a government building.”
On Jan. 15, the Ethical Society of Police, a police association that advocates for racial justice, held a press conference to say that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has a problem with racism, which is outlined in Gardner’s lawsuit. The American asked ESOP leaders what the police union could do to help curb the racism.
“It would be a powerful move if we ever heard the police union come out and state that protestors, activists, Milton Green, Luther Hall and some of the issues that African-American officers face are valid and they’re accurate,” said Heather Taylor, president of ESOP. “And they are going to stand with us and their African-American members and other minority members and members who are not African American or either but that want change. That would be a powerful move, instead of putting out memes of the circuit attorney and racist, homophobic and vile statements about women as well. Instead of targeting people. Let’s do that.”