ST. LOUIS — Pagedale Police Chief Eddie Simmons started his career with the St. Louis police in 1984 and remained there until he retired in 2012. During that time, he also served as the president of the Ethical Society of Police – a membership organization that represents mostly Black officers.
Simmons moved on to the suburban police department that serves a North St. Louis County community, but he is still very much involved – and vocal – about issues affecting the St. Louis police department and the city where he lives.
When he heard St. Louis Lt. Col. Mary Warnecke, who's white, recently blocked Lt. Col. Rochelle Jones, who's Black, out of a virtual meeting regarding crime on March 30, he turned to Facebook to vent his frustrations.
Their boss, John Hayden, is Black.
To Simmons, Warnecke’s exclusion of Jones from the meeting was “racist bullying,” and Hayden’s handling of the matter was “pathetic.”
“You are an embarrassment to Black people,” he said. “Why would you want to get in that position and you are scared, you are terrified of white people?
“You are terrified of that white face.”
The Black Police Experience Twitter page posted: “@SLMPD, We’re familiar with the tactic of shutting up and shutting out Black woman in policing. To turn a phrase…..’Ya’ll ain’t slick!’”
Apparently, the department took notice of Simmons’ post and numerous others that swirled on social media after the meeting, in which Simmons claimed that Warnecke blocked Jones nine separate times from attending the March 30 discussion.
On April 2, the department tweeted: “There's been social media discussion about a virtual internal meeting in which a commander could not participate. While the dept. doesn't publicly discuss managerial matters, when made aware, Chief Hayden immediately ensured the commander was invited to this & future meetings.”
But Simmons went further, saying he hoped Tishaura Jones would become the next mayor and get rid of Hayden.
Jones told 5 On Your Side’s Rhyan Henson that Hayden and former Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards are not part of her long-term crime plan.
Simmons questioned why Hayden hasn’t followed suit.
“If you are so scared, why don’t you just step down and go?” he asked. “A couple more nickels on your pension, is that what this is about? Is that all? I’m tired of this. I’m sick of it. All these gunshots, death, all this stuff going around, you are the head of the police department. And what do you do, besides sit back behind that woman’s skirt and say nothing?”
But getting rid of a police chief isn’t that easy for a mayor anymore.
There is legislation in place to protect police chiefs from terminations based on nothing more than politics.
Elected officials must show cause.
The law, which took effect in 2013, has five categories under which a chief can be fired:
- Has caused a material fact to be misrepresented for any improper or unlawful purpose
- Has found to have violated any law, statute or ordinance, which constitutes a felony or has been deemed insubordinate or found to be in violation of a written established policy unless such claimed insubordination or violation of a written established policy was in violation of any federal or state law or local ordinance
- An inability to perform competently as a result of a mental condition, including alcohol or substance abuse
- Acting with a “reckless disregard” for the safety of the public or another officer
- Acting for the “sole purpose of furthering his or her self-interest” or in a manner “inconsistent” with the interests of the governing body or the public
Even though the bar for termination is high, removing a chief of police is possible.
On her first day in office in April 2017, Lyda Krewson called then Chief Sam Dotson into a meeting during which he abruptly retired.
But it didn’t come cheap.
The city paid him a full year salary, which was then $129,000, to serve as a consultant to the City and report to the Public Safety Director. After 22 years with the department, Dotson was eligible for a pension of about 48% of his average salary during the last three years of his career.
He's now the chief of Amtrak’s Police force based in Washington D.C.
As far as Simmons is concerned, there is plenty of cause to fire Hayden.
Simmons is also a St. Louis resident, where murders have hit record numbers per capita during Hayden’s administration.
“I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m fed up with it. It’s ridiculous.
“It’s against the law to do what you doing. It’s dereliction of duty. You should be written up … for not doing your job for conduct unbecoming. You impress it out on everybody else -- Black that it is. I’m tired of this. I can’t wait for the election to come. If you need help packing up, I will be there. I will get you a truck. I will pay for a truck to come get your stuff.”