St. Louis' largest private policing company is a who’s who of city police commanders, supervisors and lower-ranking officers., ProPublica reports. Among the 200 police officers whose names appeared this year on an internal list of officers who had received approval from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to moonlight for a firm called The City’s Finest were four of the six district commanders who hold the rank of captain. The list, obtained through a public records request, included two of the department’s highest-ranking officers, Maj. Ryan Cousins, who oversees the department’s murder, rape and arson investigations, and Maj. Shawn Dace, who oversees South Patrol, which includes two districts. It’s not clear if all of those officers currently work for The City’s Finest.
Many of the city’s wealthier and predominantly white neighborhoods hire off-duty city police officers from companies like The City’s Finest to supplement patrols by the police department, an arrangement that creates disparities in how the city is protected. The fact that many top officers moonlight for a private company that exists to shore up the department’s crime-fighting shortcomings suggests deep troubles, experts said. Washington University law Prof. Peter Joy said there would be less demand for The City’s Finest and other companies if the police department was more effective. “If there was less crime in those areas, The City’s Finest would have less business,” said Joy. “So, there appears to me to be a conflict of interest.” Seth Stoughton, a professor at the University of South Carolina’s law school who has studied moonlighting by police, said officers’ dual roles can lead to real and perceived conflicts of interest. “If you do your job as a public officer too well, you’re going to put your security company out of business,” said Stoughton, a former police officer. “I’m not saying that’s actually going to happen. But it certainly creates this perception. The question in the public’s mind is: Who are you actually doing this for right now?”