Jeff Roorda and Heather Taylor

Jeff Roorda, St. Louis Police Officers Association (left); Heather Taylor, Ethical Society of Police (right)

It’s St. Louis, so of course there is a white police officers’ association and a black police officers’ association. Both released an official statement addressing the federal lawsuit filed by Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner alleging racial bias in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (among other sectors of the criminal justice system in the city) using the Ku Klux Act of 1871. Guess what? They’re totally different.

The St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) – the majority-white bargaining agent for city cops – issued an odd statement on January 13 that quotes the SLPOA’s statement (that is, it’s a document that quotes itself). For the SLPOA, Gardner is not the victim of discrimination – rather, she is a criminal trying to distract from her own misdeeds.

“The union called the suit nothing more than a frantic ploy to distract the public from Gardner’s court-ordered deposition on Wednesday related to a special prosecutor’s probe into the criminal conduct of Gardner’s handpicked investigator, William Don Tisaby, who has been charged with six counts of perjury and tampering with evidence by a grand jury,” the SLPOA’s statement quotes itself. “The union called Gardner’s suit ‘frivolous and without merit.’”

Never mind that the treatment of Tisaby – a black former FBI investigator hired by Gardner to investigate then-Gov. Eric Greitens when, she claims, the city cops were uncooperative – is critical to matters of fact that her law suit alleges. And it’s essential to remember that the charges against Tisaby – and any charges against Gardner that might possibly result from her deposition that has the SLPOA salivating – relate to garden-variety witness coaching. The cops find it easy to believe that a prosecutor and her investigator would coach a witness – legally, that can be charged as witness tampering – because they know prosecutors and cops coach (and tamper with) witnesses every day of the week.

The EYE doubts that the SLPOA would object if Gardner or her staff coached (or tampered with) any witness they needed to make one of their cases. The EYE knows that the SLPOA is driving mad at Gardner after local media reported that she keeps a Brady List of cops she finds so biased or otherwise unreliable that she won’t charge their cases because she won’t use them as witnesses – and then Gardner did not deny keeping such a list. In fact, she has publicly updated and lengthened the list since then. This is a major show of defiance by a prosecutor: telling the police that they can keep these cops in uniform but she won’t charge their cases.

Let’s cut back to the statement quoting itself to see how the SLPOA feels about that Brady List.

“‘This is a prosecutor who has declared war on crime victims and the police officers sworn to protect them,” a statement by the union read. ‘She’s turned murderers and other violent criminals loose to prey on St. Louis’ most vulnerable citizens and has time and time again falsely accused police of wrongdoing. The streets of this city have become the Killing Fields as the direct result of Gardner’s actions and inaction.’”

Speaking of “a frantic ploy to distract the public,” how about the SLPOA blaming a prosecutor first elected in 2016 for turning St. Louis into “the Killing Fields”? That phrase dates back to Cambodia in the 1970s, and the streets of St. Louis have been running red with blood every bit that long. Kimberly Gardner is not to blame for St. Louis’ homicide crisis.

The SLPOA’s statement goes on to quote itself on any number of other belligerent, distracting points, before concluding: “The union renewed its call for Gardner to step down or to be removed from office through any lawful means available.” That cleans up SLPOA business agent Jeff Roorda’s previous – and borderline criminal – declaration that Gardner should be removed from office “by force or by choice.” With tough talk like that, the EYE thinks Roorda needs to invest in a tiki torch and go march with the other gun-happy soft boys at the next Unite the White rally.

The Ethical Society of Police (ESOP) – the majority-black group that advocates for racial equity in policing – issued its own statement two days later. It’s a different world and a different police department. It deserves quotation at length.

Whether the City of St. Louis or the SLPOA agrees with the Circuit Attorney’s lawsuit or not, denying racial biases are rampant is a slap in the face to minority and non-minority officers with whom we are proud to serve. The City of St. Louis and the SLPOA had another opportunity to address the racial climate in SLMPD, but once again, they have chosen to deny that racial biases are a part of the culture of SLMPD.

The statement released by the City of St. Louis about the Circuit Attorney’s lawsuit states it’s “meritless” when we all know there is a long history of racial discrimination in SLMPD that has never been adequately addressed by the City of St. Louis, the SLPOA, and leadership in SLMPD.

Furthermore, the City of St. Louis is aware ESOP was founded as a separate police association from the SLPOA because of racial discrimination in SLMPD and a lack of equal representation by the SLPOA for their black officers. We have repeatedly highlighted the disparities along racial lines with discipline, promotions, and job placement; therefore, the Circuit Attorney stating she has experienced racial bias at the hands of some SLMPD officers is far from “meritless.”

We ask the City of St. Louis to explain why Captain Ryan Cousins was awarded $1.1 million in a racial discrimination lawsuit in June.

We ask the City of St. Louis to explain the cover-up and treatment of Detective Luther Hall, who stated he was beaten like “Rodney King” by numerous white SLMPD/SLPOA Officers, while his partner who is white was untouched.

We ask the City of St. Louis to explain the rampant corruption involved in the investigation of retired/disabled Police Officer Milton Green, who was shot in June of 2017, months before the brutal beating of Det. Hall by a white SLMPD/SLPOA officer.

We ask the City of St. Louis to explain why there are at least 30 pending lawsuits from the Jason Stockley protest.

We also ask the City of St. Louis to explain why SLMPD has made few substantial steps to address why 60 percent of black officers leave SLMPD within seven years and why there is no cultural competency training in place post-Ferguson and the Plain View Project, which again exposed a racial divide in SLMPD.

Before and after the Ferguson unrest, we repeatedly suggested SLMPD leadership and the City of St. Louis provide yearly in-house diversity training, address the hiring and background practices that adversely harm black candidates with hiring and promotions, begin the process of working with outside organizations like the Center for Policing Equity to dismantle racism, to employ social workers in SLMPD, and to provide all officers with yearly Equal Employment Opportunity Training.

Most of our suggestions have not been implemented or have been ignored.

Unfortunately, until the City of St. Louis and SLMPD recognizes the racial divide in SLMPD and implement our suggestions, we will continue to be national news for allegations of racial discrimination. 

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