This story was published in Metro on Friday, September 27, 2002. County police take control in Kinloch By Heather Ratcliffe Of The Post-Dispatch William C. Lhotka Of The Post-Dispatch Contributed To This Report. Althea Turner didn't need long to figure out what was happening when she stepped off a bus near her home in Kinloch on Thursday afternoon and spotted St. Louis County police officers. "Thank you, Jesus," she declared. "Now the laws will be enforced, and we'll be safer." That was the idea, officials said, when St. Louis County Police Chief Ron Battelle served notice on the city at 3 p.m. that 911 calls were being rerouted to county dispatchers who would send his officers to answer calls. The move followed by less than two weeks a Post-Dispatch examination that raised questions about whether Kinloch police were competent to protect the community of 450 people. The day before that story appeared, a Kinloch officer admitted that he accidentally shot a motorist while making a traffic stop that did not even result in an arrest. Battelle said Thursday that the newspaper investigation added impetus to officials' existing concerns about a breakdown in law enforcement. "The article just confirmed what we already knew," he said. Linda Whitfield, who had been hired as Kinloch police chief July 22, said she resigned the day after the story. "I just left when it hit the newspaper," Whitfield said in an interview Thursday. "I didn't want to be part of that." No city officials could be reached to react to Thursday's development. Kinloch officers are free to continue patrols but will not be sent on calls. It remained uncertain what they would do. County officials said their investigation showed the local department lacked proper records, lost evidence and employed few officers certified to wear a badge. Investigators also found problems with the department's finances and written directives. "It was made clear through the investigation that the Kinloch police department was not able to provide an adequate level or service," Battelle explained. He said 15 county officers and several supervisors will be assigned to Kinloch indefinitely. Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch said Thursday that he hopes the change will be permanent because the community is too poor to afford its own police. "People there weren't getting any protection. I think this is in their best interests," McCulloch said. "Right now, the city has three commissioned officers - that is three officers total, one per shift.." The city is $30,000 in arrears on payment to the county for dispatching services, he said, adding, "The people doing the dispatching were often unable to locate an officer." The decision to move in was made jointly by the County Board of Police Commissioners, County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall and McCulloch. "We met with the police chief, who just resigned," McCulloch said. "She was very helpful." The prosecutor cited problems with evidence collection and record-keeping, and the town's failure to keep its promise to call in county police on major crimes. On Sept. 15, the Post-Dispatch published a story about Kinloch convenience store owner Mike "Big Mike" Singleton, who had been shot in April after a disagreement with a customer over parking. Singleton described how he and a witness identified his attacker to Kinloch police. But the department never sought charges against the suspect, Marc Collins, and never explained why. Singleton shot and killed Collins in a confrontation outside the store Aug. 13, an event that both Singleton and Collins' mother blamed on inaction by police. On Sept. 14, Walter Wilson, a former Kinloch chief who was still with the department, was suspended after he shot a motorist he had stopped on suspicion of drug violations. Wilson said his gun "accidentally discharged" as he grabbed for the driver's keys. Wilson then chased the motorist into Maryland Heights, where he fired several more shots at the man's vehicle. No charges have been filed against the motorist. "When we had an officer firing a people for no particular reason, it increased the urgency," Battelle said. Singleton said Thursday that he welcomed the county police. "I feel more protected," he said. "Now I don't have to walk around with a gun in my hand all the time. I know it will be safer. But they've got a lot to clean up." Thursday marked the third time in recent history that county police took control in Kinloch. In 1991, they were there for 11 months after the then-mayor, police chief and two aldermen were charged with receiving stolen liquor. At the time, Kinloch was down to just two certified officers. The officials were convicted. In 1996, the county moved in again, after the police chief was charged with possession of a stolen computer. He was convicted. That same week, an officer was accused of rape. Each time, county officials returned control after city officials agreed to conditions sought by the county prosecutor and police to protect the integrity of criminal cases. Each time, the situation deteriorated until law enforcement was compromised again, Battelle said. "They did not have the tax base or people who know how to manage a police department," Battelle said. Capt. Robert Trittler, a county police officer who helped explain his department's presence to residents, said, "The citizens seem excited. They already want to talk to us about a lot of quality of life issues." Reporter Heather Ratcliffe:\ E-mail: [email protected]\ Phone: 314-863-2821 Published in Metro on Friday, September 27, 2002.