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Organization for Black St. Louis officers recommends 25 steps to combat racism within the ranks

Among the recommendations are that grand juries should review all shootings and undercover officers should wear body cameras
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

ST. LOUIS — The Ethical Society of Police, which represents primarily Black police officers in St. Louis, released a 60-page report Tuesday outlining what it defines as systemic racism, hiring concerns, unfair discipline, corruption and disturbing incidents, according to the organization’s news release. 

The report also includes 25 recommendations to address the issues and also contains criticisms of Mayor Lyda Krewson, Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, Police Chief John Hayden, Director of Personnel Rick Frank and the St. Louis Police Officers Association. 

Current officers, former officers and civilians within the St. Louis police department wrote and contributed to the report, according to the release.

Frank said the report is "misleading" and demonstrates a “lack of full understanding and awareness." 

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He added that his department has met with ESOP leaders, so they know much of what was contained within the report is already in progress and that his power is limited by the city's charter.

The organization's president, Sgt. Heather Taylor, responded in a statement, which read, in part, "What is disappointing as mostly minority officers is that the Director of Personnel has not adequately corrected the issues within SLMPD, with biased discipline, biased hiring, and corruption, which is under his authority."

Frank noted that mandatory sensitivity training was recently announced. 

"It’s not like we’re some back water community that’s sitting on our hands and doing nothing,” he said. "The Department of Personnel has done many, many things to address inequities in the system and to ensure (officers) are treated like every other civil service employee."

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The first recommendation the report states police employees should be brought under the city’s Civil Service Commission and be treated like all city employees.

“By allowing SLMPD to function as a half city department and half independent organization, the city has created a system that allows individual decisions to rule instead of consistent rules similar to other city employees," according to the report. "This has also hindered community support, harmed the retention of African American officers, impeded the promotion of African American officers, has allowed unfair discipline, emboldened employee corruption, lowered morale among employees, and resulted in numerous civil lawsuits."

Frank disputed the need for this step, saying the commission voted to bring police officers under its purview in September. 

“It’s irritating when half truths or misstatements like that come out,” he said.

Among the organization’s other recommendations:

  • A Trauma Informed Form to let families know what their rights are when their loved one is killed by law enforcement. The form should include a summary of the incident, the medical examiner's findings and police report.
  • Review of all current and prior in-custody deaths and officer-involved shootings by a Grand Jury.
  • Body-worn cameras for all undercover, patrol officers and supervisors.
  • The first offense of intentionally turning off a body-worn camera is automatic termination when someone dies or is injured, and a 10-day suspension in incidents where a life is not lost. The discipline for future incidents should be termination.
  • All St. Louis police officer discipline should be public record.

The report also recommended that the department created the same type of liaison for other religious and racial communities as it has for its LGBTQ officers.

The full report is available online here.

The organization commended Hayden for his accessibility and support of its recruiting program.

ESOP represents about 325 members, according to its release, including officers, deputy marshals, sheriffs, park rangers and some members of the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments.

Krewson, Edwards and Hayden declined to comment saying they had not yet read the report.

Taylor included additional responses to Frank's criticism of the report:

“We never stated, we don’t follow 'some' Civil Service Rules...Local control occurred in 2013.

"We’d ask Director Frank to explain, Judge Dierker’s ruling in 2017, which stated, 'It’s high time for the Civil Service Commission to take control of disciplinary procedures of the Police Department.' Local control occurred in 2013.

"We would also like to understand his lack of actions with addressing racial disparities with discipline after the Civil Service Commission, (in which he is the Secretary) stated in their ruling to return Captain Ryan Cousins to work, 'Several Caucasian officers whose misconduct posed a threat to themselves, to others, and the worksite were not placed on forced leave and were disciplined less severely.'

"We support Director Frank's changes with the promotional process after several lawsuits and now with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) after numerous complaints. Still, he knows he has the sole authority to do more under Civil Service Rules and fix a number of disparities within SLMPD.”