In June of last year, police captain Chico Bridges tendered his resignation. "Me and a couple other people didn't see eye to eye on things," Bridges says today, though he declines to cite specifics. "I'm a straight-laced cop. There were certain things that didn't suit me, so I chose to leave."
Haynes filled the captain's slot with Rickey Collins. A veteran cop, Collins wasn't new to Pine Lawn. In fact, he'd served on the force until 2001, when the Missouri Department of Public Safety placed his Peace Officer License on probation.
"We let him go as a police officer," confirms Adrian Wright, who as mayor presided over Collins' dismissal.
The Department of Public Safety had put Collins on probation for his alleged 1985 bathroom rape of a co-worker while he was employed as a security guard at a Schnucks supermarket in the north-county suburb of Beverly Hills. At Collins' administrative hearing in 2001, he argued that he'd had an ongoing consensual relationship with his accuser and denied that the bathroom incident occurred. His attorney contended that because the alleged incident occurred more than fifteen years prior, it was too remote in time for Collins to be disciplined.
The accuser, referred to in administrative filings by the initials "MS," eventually admitted that she'd had a consensual affair with Collins. But the Administrative Hearing Commission found that her initial denial "[did] not fatally damage MS's credibility" and that the previous relationship "[did] not show her consent on a later occasion."
Concluded the commission: "[T]he mere passage of time does not affect our finding that Collins sexually abused MS and that he is therefore guilty of gross misconduct indicating an inability to function as a peace officer."
Collins' Peace Officer Certificate was placed on indefinite probation -- a fact Chief Haynes says he was fully aware of when he made the hire. "Most of my policemen who come here have a little taint in their past -- most of them have had some problems," says the chief. "[Collins] works real hard for me, and if he hadn't turned himself around and done a good job he would not be a captain today."
Adds Mayor Caldwell: "If [Collins] was guilty of those charges, Public Safety wouldn't allow him to be certified. He's a great asset to the community. He's taking guns and drugs off our streets, shutting down drug houses. The people who are the bad elements, sure, they're going to say he's bad. But that's because our town is safer at night because he's back in town."
Though his certification remains on probation, Collins says the incident is behind him. "I have worked hard to return here," he says. "The incident happened more than twenty years ago, and the victim was found to have perjured herself."
Late last month Collins made local headlines for his involvement in the June 23 shooting of Detwan McDonald, who was injured after a police pursuit that began when he allegedly evaded a DUI checkpoint. The St. Louis County Police Department is investigating the incident.
Collins says his gun went off accidentally.
"He was ramming cars, and I was trying to save a family [in] a car," says Collins, who says he was on foot at the time. "When he came toward me as I backed away with my gun drawn, I tripped over a boulder and my gun discharged. We turned the investigation over to the county right away, and there's evidence that I couldn't have shot him, because his driver['s side] window wasn't shot out."
Tracy Panus, media relations officer for the St. Louis County Police Department, declines to discuss Collins' involvement in the incident. "The investigation's still open and active," says Panus. "We can't really comment." She says McDonald was shot in the arm after his car jumped a curb, and that he was subsequently treated and released from an area hospital.
Chief Haynes placed Collins on administrative leave pending city and county investigations.