Mo. officer accused of punch is fired


Copyright 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc. 

ST. LOUIS The St. Louis Police Board on Saturday fired an officer who was accused of punching a driver in the face during a traffic stop.

It was an ironic ending to a week that saw the Board of Aldermen approve the formation of a new panel to investigate police misconduct cases.

Proponents of civilian oversight, which is common in other big U.S. cities, have said it is needed to make the St. Louis police more accountable to the public.

After a seven-hour administrative trial, the board voted 3-0 to fire Christopher Nazetta, 27, who had been on the force since 2001.

Mayor Francis Slay, who sits on the board, was absent. Board members Michael Quinn, Chris Goodson and Jo Ann Freeman left without taking a reporter's questions.

Marvin Jones, 19, alleged that the rough treatment took place Jan. 2, 2005. Two cousins in his Jeep Grand Cherokee backed up his claim, and a 15-year-old testified he saw from across the street Nazetta swing at Jones.

Nazetta's lawyers claimed he grabbed, but did not punch, Jones. Supervisors testified that he was an exemplary officer.

Nazetta had been accused of misconduct twice before. Last June, he was suspended for a day without pay for using pepper spray on a 69-year-old grandmother.

Jim Towey, a lawyer for Nazetta, said he was surprised by the verdict, but praised the Police Board for being the de-facto "civilian review board since the Civil War."

With all the criticism, "There wasn't one person from the public safety commission of the Board of Aldermen here today to watch the civilian review board do their job," he said. 
March 12, 2006


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