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St. Louis County Police Commission chairman resigns

A statement from County Executive Sam Page said Roland Corvington, the chairman of the St. Louis County Police Commission, resigned Monday.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The changes coming to the St. Louis County Police Department started Monday, with the resignation of Roland Corvington, the chairman of the St. Louis County Police Commission, a press release from County Executive Sam Page said.

On Sunday, Page released a statement saying changes would be coming to the department in the wake of a settlement in a discrimination lawsuit that cost the county millions of dollars.

On Sunday, County Executive Sam Page released a statement on Twitter saying leadership changes would be coming to the police department.

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The statement said the changes will start with new appointments to the police board, which oversees the police chief. He said that announcement was "forthcoming."

On Monday, Page released another statement that again said the announcement was forthcoming and would include filling "the vacancy that Board Chair Roland Corvington’s resignation created today."

"He is at the top of the organization and this verdict sent a message to him," said Councilman Tim Fitch, who used to serve as county police chief. 

A county spokeswoman confirmed the commission's secretary, Laurie Westfall, has been told she will be replaced. 

Both Westfall and Corvington's terms had already expired. 

Fitch said he has questions for Page about who he plans to appoint to serve on the board, because they have the power to dismiss Chief Jon Belmar. 

On Sunday, Councilwoman Lisa Clancy called for Belmar to resign.

"I'm pretty alarmed and disheartened by what came to light in court last week," she said.

Fitch and Councilman Ernie Trakas both said Belmar should not be forced out. 

"I believe that his responsibility now is to lead the department through a transformational stage," said Trakas. 

He added that transformation means Belmar and his team doing a thorough review of the department, with the help of a new police board, to see what has gone wrong and what can be improved.

Fitch said he planned to ask questions about Page's stance on Belmar, if this topic comes up at Tuesday's county council meeting.

The St. Louis County Police Department Board of Police Commissioners is a civilian oversight board consisting of five members. That board reviews operational and conduct policies. It also reviews all external complaints and can make recommendations on officer discipline. 

The county charter said only three members can belong to the same political party. They serve three-year terms.

Three of the five members currently on the board have been on the board longer than their three-year term. The other two have terms that expire in November. The county charter said members should continue to serve until their successors have been appointed.

According to the county charter, the county executive appoints new members of the commission who then must be approved by a majority of the county council. They would assume their positions on the board 20 days after being approved by the council.

Lawyers for Keith Wildhaber, the sergeant who filed a discrimination lawsuit against the St. Louis County Police Department, released the following statement in response to the settlement:

We are ecstatic for our client, and it has been an honor and a privilege to have been part of this historic verdict. This has been a long and difficult road for Keith. His bravery and courage in standing up for what is right should be an inspiration for employees everywhere. Justice was served in this trial, and no client could be more deserving than Keith. The jury acted as the conscience of the community and spoke loud and clear in its verdict. We sincerely hope that this matter is concluded so that our client can have the closure he deserves.

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