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The St. Louis County Police Department and its governing civilian police board may not separate themselves in their legal battle against a former lieutenant accused of racial profiling and fighting for his old job back, a judge ruled Friday.

Associate Circuit Judge Joseph L. Green also ordered the county counselor’s office to unseal thousands of pages of transcripts from the former officer’s police board trial last year that the county sought to close from the public.

Green’s decision comes after lawyers for former Lt. Patrick “Rick” Hayes appealed the police board’s decision to reinstate and demote Hayes to patrol officer.

“I find the police department, board and county are one entity,” Green said Friday.

Former Chief Tim Fitch fired Hayes in March 2013 after he said an internal affairs investigation found Hayes had ordered officers to racially profile blacks by pulling them over in and around shopping centers in south St. Louis County.

Hayes appealed his firing to the civilian police board, which presides over the police chief. In March,the board recommended Hayes be reinstated as patrolman following a disciplinary hearing.

Hayes’ attorney, Neil Bruntrager, then appealed the police board’s decision in civil court, saying his client should be returned to his former rank as lieutenant.

County counselors fought the police board’s decision, saying Hayes should remain fired. St. Louis County’s lawyers then created an “ethical wall” within the office so separate attorneys would represent the police board.

Bruntrager then sought to dismiss the county and police department’s appeal, saying no wall could separate the police department from its own board.

Green agreed. His ruling Friday ordered transcripts from Hayes’ police board trial be unsealed. Keeping them sealed when other pleadings by Hayes have remained open would give the public an incomplete account of how his case has been handled, he said.

“This could potentially be misleading to the public,” Green read Friday from his order. “Such incomplete information runs the risk of having part of the record taken out of context and would undermine the impartiality and fairness of the judicial system (that) public policy seeks to protect.”

The judge’s order gives the county counselor’s office two weeks to file unsealed transcripts — about 3,000 pages — from Hayes’ 11-day police board trial last year that the county counselor’s office wanted closed over objections from Hayes’ lawyer, Neil Bruntrager.

Bruntrager said Green’s ruling is a victory for Hayes because the public will get to see what the police board saw — that claims by some of the officers were “incredible.”

“This is a big deal,” Bruntrager said.  “It will demonstrate that he didn’t do those things.”

Bob Grant, deputy St. Louis County counselor, disagreed with the judge’s decision and said the county counselor’s office will review the ruling and consider its legal options.

Green gave lawyers for both sides 30 days to agree on a hearing date for oral arguments that will help the judge decide whether to reinstate Hayes as a lieutenant or patrol officer.

The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners has five civilians appointed by the county executive and approved by the County Council to govern the police department. There are currently four members, as County Executive Steve Stenger has not appointed a replacement for John Saracino.

See original article on stltoday.com.