Normandy's public works director had blue-and-red lights on his pickup — even though police confirmed he wasn't a cop.
The public works director in the north St. Louis suburb of Normandy got caught masquerading as a cop last fall — and while he's now facing criminal charges for the incident, he's still working at city hall.
Rodney Jarrett, 63, had a .45-caliber handgun tucked in the back of his pants and was driving a city pickup with flashing red-and-blue lights on September 7 when he conducted a bogus traffic stop, authorities say.
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The driver, a 63-year-old nonprofit worker named Herman Pruitt Jr., says Jarrett ordered him to hand over his driver's license and accused him of running a stop sign.
"I never saw an ID, never saw mace, handcuffs, radio — nothing," Pruitt recalls. "But when he turned around, I was like, 'He's got a nickel-plated 45 on his back.'"
Jarrett eventually let him leave after learning Pruitt's wife was in law enforcement.
Normandy's public works director was charged with impersonating a police officer.
"Watch those stop signs," he reportedly said before driving off in the truck.
Pruitt was shaken. He says he knew something wasn't right and went to city hall to file a report. While he was there, Jarrett walked through the door. A police officer and the city administrator confirmed Jarrett wasn't really a cop, Pruitt says.
Pruitt filed a complaint and later learned Jarrett had been suspended without pay for 30 days — a punishment that seemed far too lenient.
"It's a slap on the wrist," Pruitt says.
He contacted St. Louis County prosecutors and spoke to county police. Following an investigation, prosecutors issued charges last week for a misdemeanor of falsely impersonating a police officer.
A county police report shows Normandy police had questioned Jarrett, who admitted everything, apologized and promised to swap out his illicit blue-and-red lights with amber-colored ones. Normandy cops didn't arrest him and instead forwarded the matter to city officials, who decided on the 30-day suspension.
Jarrett promised it would "never happen again," according to the police report.
It was only after the county investigated that he was charged.
Jarrett was at his desk on Tuesday when reached by the Riverfront Times
. He says he's in the process of finding an attorney and refused to comment. Asked if he would like to explain what happened the day of the traffic stop, he replied, "I would not."
City officials referred the RFT
to Steve Garrett, the city's attorney. Garrett reiterated that Jarrett was punished with the 30-day suspension, but said the city hasn't seen the new charges yet.
"We'll obviously take a look at that," Garrett says.
As for Pruitt, he suspects Jarrett pulled over lots of people before him — and he thinks the city must have known it, too.
"I just don't believe he woke up that day and said, 'I want to play police,'" Pruitt says, adding. "Normandy knew what he was, but they wanted to push it under the carpet."
When he replays that day in his head, he thinks about all the ways it could have gone even worse.
"To me, it's a travesty what went down," Pruitt says. "I'm so shook about it, because he had a gun. What if he shot me? What if I'd pissed him off and he shot me?"
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