The Ethical Society of Police is asking for an inclusive process during the implementation of the newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Unit within the St. Louis County Police Department. The head of the Diversity and Inclusion Unit should have a strong history of being a champion for racial diversity, inclusion, equity and demonstrated the prerequisites that would lead him/her to be selected as the most qualified employee.
It is from that lens that we are extremely disappointed with Chief Jon Belmar’s selection for the Diversity and Inclusion commander. The fact that there was no selection process held for such an important assignment signals to us the lack of sincerity in the department's commitment to address diversity and inclusion for all of its employees.
The St. Louis County Police Department lags behind many police departments nationwide with regard to Diversity and Inclusion, as noted in the findings of the 2015 U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) collaborative review of the department. Moreover, Chief Belmar has been consistently tone-deaf to the concerns raised by African Americans regarding discriminatory practices and disparate treatment of minorities relative to hiring, selection to specialized units, disciplinary actions and promotions.
The creation of a unit dedicated to addressing the aforementioned issues is a step in the right direction. However, we question the strength of the motivation for meaningful change as the creation of the unit came only after the department was hit with a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit brought by then-Sergeant Keith Wildhaber, who has been chosen to head the new unit.
In 2013 when then-Lieutenant Rick Hayes was terminated for instructing several St. Louis County Police Department officers to racially profile and arrest African Americans in the South County area, there was no thought of a Diversity and Inclusion Unit. By the way, Hayes is back on the force.
In 2017 when Officer Nikki Brown, a black female officer, filed a detailed 21-page complaint stating St. Louis County Police Department employees not only subjected her to sexual harassment but discriminated against her (and also several African-American recruits within the police academy), there was no thought of a Diversity and Inclusion Unit.
In 2018 when E.S.O.P. expanded into the St. Louis County Police Department and explained how many African-American officers felt marginalized within the department and provided several examples of such treatment, there was no thought of a Diversity and Inclusion Unit.
The St. Louis County Police Department had a race issue long before Chief Belmar; however, he has done little to adequately address the problem. We wish the Diversity and Inclusion Unit could have occurred sooner when African Americans were soliciting help and repeatedly met with him. And, thus far, the implementation has failed to properly address the divisive issues that exist in the department.
To proceed into a more racially inclusive environment, the Ethical Society of Police strongly suggests mandatory cultural competency and implicit and explicit bias training for all ranks within the department and for a diverse group of employees to be included in the new Diversity and Inclusion Unit.