The St. Louis County Police Department is going to get a Public Safety Review funded by Civic Progress companies and the Regional Business Council, with no tax dollars spent on the review.
St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page and Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis President and CEO Michael P. McMillan announced the initiative on Monday, June 29.
The review will be led by Chuck Ramsey, who co-chaired President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, and Daniel Oates, a national expert on community policing who retired last year as chief of the Miami Beach Police Department. Page said that Lt. Col. Troy Doyle will coordinate their efforts within the department.
“I look forward to working with the community, as their input will be extremely vital to any sort of police reform efforts,” Doyle said in a statement.
“With that said, transparency has to become the standard as we move forward with this review. Anything short of transparency will lose credibility with the general public, and none of us are in the position to allow that to happen.”
The review will examine how best to implement effective community policing strategies in St. Louis County and review use-of-force training and practice, according to a release. It will explore the best ways to provide instruction, including cultural, racial, and community sensitivity training, de-escalation training, and implicit bias training.
Asked how making new investments in studying the police related to a call to disinvest in the police, Page pointed out that this study will be “paid for without taxpayer funds” and that the corporate funds for the study come from “companies with longstanding relationships with the Urban League.”
McMillan of the Urban League said they are motivated by the same incidents that have led protestors to call for change in police practices.
“In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, we have seen millions of people all across our country and in this community call for change,” McMillan said in a release, “and we have been having conversations with leaders of our civic and business community about how they can help us confront this crisis as well.”
Further, they said, the study will include a review of where other non-police professionals, such as nurses and social workers, can respond to incidents such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health crises.
Page said he decided to support the study after consulting with St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell, St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton and Ray Price, chairman of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners.
“The St. Louis County Public Safety Review is an opportunity to take a proven, data- and research-driven approach and use it to address our public safety challenges,” Bell said in a statement. “We have to be able to talk about implicit bias and cultural sensitivity, because that's the only way to address the culture changes needed in law enforcement and allow us to move St. Louis forward in a meaningful way."
The awareness of racial bias in police work, stated by everyone committing to this effort, contradicts Barton’s previous public claim that there is no systemic racism in the St. Louis County Police Department.
“Systemic racism is ingrained in St. Louis and in our institutions, including law enforcement,” Page said in a statement. “We have to have the humility to recognize where we fall short and the urgency to do something about it.”
In that regard, the appointment of Doyle to coordinate the study within the department is notable. One of the department’s most senior and respected African-American leaders, Doyle was passed over for chief when the police board promoted Barton, who is a white woman.
When asked about the choice of Doyle, Page told The American, “The chief and the police board recognize the contributions Lt. Col. Troy Doyle can make in this effort, and they turned to Troy Doyle and asked for his help.”
Doyle had a senior position under then-Chief Jon Belmar when Belmar invited President Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) to review the St. Louis County Police Department amidst the Ferguson unrest. That review by the Police Foundation, conducted on behalf of the DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and published in October 2015, found that the department lacked adequate diversity, failed to report municipal police departments that violate the U.S. Constitution, placed too much emphasis on tactical skills over community policing, and was especially disconnected from youth.
The first stated goal for the department in the 182-page DOJ report was to “improve recruitment, selection and hiring processes to address minority underrepresentation in the department.” The report also found a “pattern of light discipline in investigations involving ethical failings and untruthfulness” in the department’s disciplinary process.
Doyle said he understands that there are other studies of police departments that could be acted on, but if there is going to be a new study, he wanted to work on it.
“This is not a ‘check the box’ moment,” Doyle told The American. “If this is going to be intentional and meaningful, I want to be a part of it. If some things are not right, I have no problem saying that things are not right.”