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St. Louis County police board members mum about $12,000 raise to police chief

Civilian oversight board chairman says the chief's performance is a personnel matter
Credit: KSDK

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners gave Chief Mary Barton a $12,000 raise during its December board meeting, but its chairman hung up on a reporter when asked about it.

Judge William Ray Price Jr. is the chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, which includes five civilian members appointed by County Executive Sam Page. The five members selected Barton to become chief in April 2020 and voted to raise her salary to $163,092.80 from $151,008 during their December meeting.

It's an 8% raise. Officers and sergeants got a 3% raise, professional staff got a 2% raise and all commanders with the rank of lieutenant and above got their annual step increases, but no raises. 

Price was unwilling to discuss the board’s reasons for giving Barton a raise with a reporter, or comment on the board’s opinion of her performance as chief.

“That’s personnel and I’m not at liberty to discuss it publicly and that’s something we can’t comment on so thank you very much,” Price said before hanging up on a reporter.

Barton’s tenure at the top has had its share of controversy – starting with her selection in the first place.

Lt. Col. Troy Doyle has alleged County Executive Page ordered the board to select Barton because his political donors did not want to see a Black man as chief. Barton is the first woman to lead the department, and she is white. She was also a captain at the time the board appointed her as chief with a salary of about $114,000.

Doyle’s attorney released an audio recording of Page telling Doyle, in part, “The police board will do what I tell them to do.”

Not long after her appointment, Barton told the St. Louis County Council she did not believe there was systemic racism in her department – comments that did not go over well with the department’s Ethical Society of Police (ESOP), a membership organization that represents Black officers and others throughout the community.

ESOP released the following statement Thursday after 5 On Your Side's exclusive story:

Our experiences as an organization have taught us that progress will not be achieved without a framework of accountability in place. In addition to enhanced crime prevention efforts, understanding, identifying and addressing race disparity should be an integral component of the performance outcomes of chiefs of police and their executive staff.

As we have addressed time and again, Chief Barton has performed dismally in these respects and her poor leadership should not be rewarded with a substantial raise.

We sincerely doubt that any of the Board of Police Commissioners would support rewarding such poor performance to the tune of $13k at their respective law firms. The fact that the Board of Police Commissioners approval of Chief Barton’s pay raise was shrouded in secrecy serves as indisputable evidence of their proclivity to hide things that are of the public’s interest.

In January, a police dispatcher used the “n word” on an open police radio mic referring to callers requesting police service during a domestic disturbance. The dispatcher is related to Barton.

Lt. Keith Wildhaber gave a statement to 5 On Your Side condemning the dispatcher’s comments. Wildhaber, who is gay, was appointed to lead the department’s first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Unit after he won a $20 million jury verdict from a discrimination lawsuit in 2019.

Barton then summoned Wildhaber to a meeting with the department’s Human Resources Director Carl Becker following his comments regarding the dispatcher. Becker served as the county’s attorney during much of the time leading up to the trial.

Barton left the room before Wildhaber and Becker began their meeting, during which Becker “verbally admonished” Wildhaber for releasing a statement to the media, according to the St. Louis Police Association.

The department issued a statement saying no one is exempt from an internal policy requiring officers to get permission to speak to the media.

Wildhaber then requested a transfer out of the unit because he did not believe he could do his job well if all of his statements needed to be approved by the department, according to the union.

Barton approved the transfer and has not named a replacement for the unit.

Editor's note: The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners gave Chief Mary Barton a $12,000 raise. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect amount.