ST. LOUIS (AP) — The actions of a black St. Louis police officer who was fired after altering a police report were worthy of only a reprimand, according to a report obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that offers further insight into why the city's Civil Service Commission later reinstated him with back pay.
Ryan Cousins alleged in a lawsuit that race played a role in his 2016 firing. The commission ruled last month that his actions were worthy of only a reprimand and he was reinstated with back pay.
The commission did not explain its decision in September, but the Post-Dispatch obtained the report for a story on Monday.
Cousins, a 20-year police veteran, was fired after an investigation in which a black resident was suspected of shooting at would-be burglars. Police handcuffed the man after learning he was a felon, which barred him from legally possessing a firearm.
Cousins was accused of freeing the man and ordering reports to be altered. Cousins claimed that other officers, many of them white, conducted a warrantless search and that the man was questioned without being read his rights.
The 14-page opinion overturning the firing found that Cousins told officers to disregard a shell casing at the scene and omit from a report the fact that shots had been fired.
The report said Cousins took the actions as "an exercise of police discretion not to arrest a crime victim in his home after a call to police for help." And, it agreed with Cousins' attorneys' claim that the discipline was harsh compared with that of white officers involved in unrelated internal investigations.
Cousins' conduct "was not serious enough to warrant dismissal," the commission wrote.
Cousins, who was commander of a district, has still not been put back to work. The delay has led the Ethical Society of Police, which represents black officers, to criticize the department and ask when Cousins will return.
A spokesman for Mayor Lyda Krewson declined comment.
Cousins still has a lawsuit pending against the city.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com