Police officers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department who posted racist and bigot Facebook posts are a “ threat to the public,” Reverend Spencer Lamar Booker, senior pastor at St. Paul A.M. E. Church, said during a press conference on the steps of St. Louis City Hall on June 13.
Representatives from Christian, Muslim and LGBTQ communities held a press conference to discuss their dissatisfaction with how the city is handling the post by police officers.
Last week, the Plain View Project unveiled Facebook accounts of 43 police officers who published posts that were offensive to minorities. Twenty-three of the accounts that were found are linked to current police officers.
“Today we gather to amply our voices of the disdain of some 21or 22 police officers who thought it was okay to vent their First Amendment right and to the world their hearts,” said Booker. “In their hearts, they have racist, Islamophobic, and homophobic philosophies and ideologies; they have shown us what they think about those who they have been sworn to protect and serve.”
Before holding the press conference, the coalition met with St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards, and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to discuss further investigation as well as actions to be taken by city officials.
The coalition of faith leaders asked city officials to fire the police officers; however, their plea was not met. Instead, the matter was turned over to Gardner for further investigation.
Rev. Darryl Gray said that St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s decision to put officers on administrative leave “was important because that sends a message that we understand due process, we understand collective bargain,” but it was not enough. “At the end of the day, what they have done is inexcusable and warrants termination,” Gray said.
Some of the posts published on the database were comments, likes and reposts, but Gray said they are all the same.
“Whether they were involved based on an initial thought, whether they were involved based on a repost or like, it is the same attitude,” said Gray. “ If you liked it you agreed, if you reposted it, you agreed. So you may not indict it as an original thought, but when you shared an original thought it became your thought.”
Djilali Kacem, a member of the Muslim community and the imam for the Dar-Al-Jalah Islamic Center in Hazelwood, said the officers involved are “inexcusable and represent the fundamental problem in and within the police department.” He also begged for justice on behalf of the people in his community.
“We all as leaders of this community care about justice and fairness to all people, regardless of their race, regardless of gender, regardless of their faith,” he said. “Police officers who hate certain groups cannot protect and serve that group. There is no way.”
Edwards said police officers will begin receiving sensitivity training; however, civil right leaders in the community criticized the training, saying it does not prevent bias. The coalition of faith leaders said they would like to take part in the training to restore the trust between police officers and civilians.
“If we are serious and honest about taking care of this, we need to part to partner with the groups who are affected by it,” said Kacem. “Therefore we reject the city’s sensitivity training until the training is done in partnership with such civil rights movements.”