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Gay lieutenant asks to resign from St. Louis County police diversity unit, citing 'systemic racism'

Lt. Keith Wildhaber has asked to be transferred back to the patrol division

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Lt. Keith Wildhaber requested to step down Friday as the head of the St. Louis County Police Department's Diversity and Inclusion Unit, saying in a post on his Facebook page that he is the victim of systemic racism.

"I battled St. Louis County for almost 4 1/2 years," Wildhaber posted. "The day I was sworn in as the head of the Diversity and Inclusion Unit, the Ethical Society of Police and community activists have been publicly attacking me and questioning my qualifications to do the job. To be clear, I met all of the qualifications, as spelled out in the department's job requirements. I was enrolled to attend national certification by the National Diversity Council in April, however, the certification was unfortunately postponed until September due to COVID 19.

"The dog whispers of a gay, white guy being able to lead Diversity and Inclusion were loud and clear. Systemic racism is alive and well.

"I tried to ignore the background noise, but I'm not battling ESOP and the activists for another 3 years.

This afternoon, I notified the department of my decision to transfer back to Patrol," he wrote.

Wildhaber's post, though not public, was visible to at least two 5 On Your Side reporters. 

The Ethical Society of Police, a group that represents minority police officers, said race isn't the issue with Wildhaber's position.

"It's not about race or sexual orientation," the group's president Sgt. Heather Taylor said.  It's about qualifications. That's the keyword: qualifications," 

Taylor said she, too, has experienced racism and discrimination as an officer, but that wouldn't make her qualified to lead a diversity and inclusion unit.

"I would tell SLMPD they have lost their minds if they ever asked me to do the job of diversity and inclusion when you have civilians who've been trained in it for decades, who have turned around corporations," she said.

Taylor said she would support another white man in the role.

"Whomever they put in that job -- he can be another openly gay, white male, and if he's qualified, do the job. Yes, that's great," she said. 

5 On Your Side has contacted Wildhaber, requesting information beyond his social media post. He has not yet responded.

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St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton must approve Wildhaber's transfer.

Former St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar appointed Wildhaber to run the unit after a jury awarded Wildhaber $20 million. He sued the department in 2017 alleging that Belmar and his administration refused to promote him because he is gay and retaliated against him after he filed a complaint about it.

The county then settled with Wildhaber for $10.25 million, but recently the County Council approved the sale of bonds over a 30-year period that will add about $5 million in interest to the county's cost to settle the case.

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