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Ethical Society of Police gives vote of 'no confidence' to St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton

Membership organization representing primarily Black officers says Barton is unfit to lead

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The Ethical Society of Police board has no confidence in St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton.

The membership organization that represents mostly Black officers cited several reasons its board of directors believes Barton is unfit for the job after her first year on the job.

They include:

  • Her ‘no systemic racism comment’ to the County Council shortly after she was sworn in. Barton was asked whether she believed there was systemic racism within her department.
  • Her refusal to include ESOP in the Communication Committee, which she later reversed after public pressure
  • The racist statement by her brother-in-law. A dispatcher the organization identified as Mark Peeler – Barton’s brother-in-law – was overheard using the “n” word on an open police mic after taking a call from a family in need of police service in a predominantly Black community. Barton has since fired him.
  • A Three Percenter flag at the home of an Officer. The Three Percenters is one of the groups the FBI has identified as among the insurrectionists who attacked the nation’s Capitol Jan. 6.
  • Numerous unresolved complaints about racism at the Police Academy and with hiring. Taylor said she could not get into specifics on these examples because they are “ongoing issues.”
  • The transfer of Officer Shanette Hall out of the recruitment division and back to the street after she talked to the media about racism Black women face on the force.
  • The St. Louis County Police Association issued a statement Friday saying the police union “shares many of the substantial concerns raised by ESOP.”

“In fact, the St. Louis County Police Association is currently conducting a poll of our 915 members to gather a full list of issues that are causing reports of low morale among the rank and file. Although this is not a ‘no confidence’ vote it will be an opportunity to present data to the command of the police department directly from the rank and file. Once delivered, that data could be used by department leadership to effect changes as necessary.”

Barton’s spokesman, Sgt. Benjamin Granda, said she was unavailable for an interview Friday, but wrote: “For context, in 2020, there were 388 transfers/re-assignments of commissioned personnel to meet the needs of the department.”

Heather Taylor is the spokeswoman for the Ethical Society of Police, which Taylor said has about 62 members in the county.

She said the 16-member board voted unanimously about its lack of confidence in Barton. She said the county’s board members, which include Hall and Lt. Ray Rice, did not participate in the vote because the organization feared they would face retaliation for doing so.

“She’s been there long enough to see the problems she’s failed to see the problems and failed to take the appropriate action,” she said. “You have these marginalized officers and they’re in these spaces where they are white and gay, black and gay, African American or in some other form of a marginalized community and they feel left out.”

Taylor said the Ethical Society outlined their concerns in a letter to Barton and it took her more than 60 days to respond.