Years before Ferguson erupted in the summer of 2014, the St. Louis NAACP had been receiving reports of corruption and abusive policing in St. Louis County municipalities and reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union for help. Today, the ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit against Pine Lawn on behalf of Adrian Wright, who was falsely arrested.
Wright was critical of former Pine Lawn Mayor Sylvester Caldwell, who used Wright’s mug shot in campaign literature to discredit his endorsement of Caldwell’s opponent for mayor. “I was wrongly accused of running a stop sign and failing to yield to a fictional emergency vehicle, threatened with a taser and arrested by a Pine Lawn police officer,” said Wright, an 80-year-old who was the Pine Lawn mayor before Caldwell. “Although all charges were dismissed, city officials ensured that my ‘perp walk’ was recorded for broadcast by a local TV station and Sylvester Caldwell later published my mug shot in campaign literature to falsely portray me as a criminal and discredit my endorsement of Caldwell’s mayoral opponent.”
“The misuse of police is a problem that is not unique to Pine Lawn,” said Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis NAACP. “While this is an extreme example, we believe there are other instances that are certainly as bad as what we’ve seen in Ferguson.”
“People become police officers out of a desire to protect and serve the community, not to oppress residents and do the bidding of the financial or political city masters,” said Jeffrey A. Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri. “The NAACP and the ACLU are looking at, and coming after, municipalities that have lost their way.”
Pictured, from the left, are plaintiff Adrian Wright, Mrs. Wright and Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri.