Officer who berated driver loses job in St. George
September 21, 2007
By Kim Bell and Greg Jonsson

ST. GEORGE A police officer who was recorded berating a motorist earlier this month has lost his job.

The board of aldermen voted 5-0, with one member absent, to fire Sgt. James Kuehnlein on Monday. The vote was cast in a session closed to the public and wasn't announced until Wednesday, when a notice was posted at the City Hall of this tiny south St. Louis County community.

In a video that got wide viewership on the Internet, Kuehnlein taunts and threatens motorist Brett Darrow, 20, sometimes shouting and using profanity, after questioning him in a commuter lot near Interstate 55. Darrow posted the footage of the Sept. 7 incident on the web.

Darrow had met with St. George Police Chief Scott Uhrig after the incident to ask that Kuehnlein be fired. He said he's pleased that the officer is now off the city's force.

"It's what I wanted the whole time," Darrow said Thursday night. "The conduct was not forgivable."

Uhrig said he recommended that the board of aldermen fire Kuehnlein based both on his language in the tape and because he violated department policy. That's because Kuehnlein should have been taping the encounter himself with his police car's camera.

No such footage could be found, though the camera is functional, Uhrig said.

The incident and the firing of Kuehnlein was the talk of the monthly board of aldermen meeting Thursday night, which was moved from the tiny City Hall to a community center to accommodate an expected overflow crowd.

About 30 people showed up, some defending their town and saying they were proud of their police force.

"This city needs to keep its own police department," said Mike Mosier, a former St. Louis police officer who has lived in St. George for 42 years.

Others complained about police problems.

Alderman Carmen Wilkerson said she fielded dozens of calls from residents in recent days. She said many were from residents who said they were humiliated and embarrassed by the incident.

Aldermen said they planned to review how officers are hired and said the city attorney had looked into the cost of having St. Louis County patrol the city.

Kuehnlein's attorney, Travis L. Noble, said the officer received a letter Thursday detailing the reasons for his firing. Noble said he would review the letter with his client before deciding on a course of action.