An internal investigation is underway after a St. Louis County police dispatcher used a racial slur on the police radio Saturday evening.
The NAACP said in a media release the employee is St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton’s brother-in-law; however, Barton has not publicly responded to this and the department has not released the dispatcher’s name.
"As I have said in past, discrimination, by word or deed, shall not be tolerated by any of us in the St. Louis County Police Department. We have, and will continue, to hold one another accountable,” Barton wrote in a prepared statement
County police spokesman Sgt. Benjamin Granda wrote in an email the dispatcher was “immediately removed from the radio and relieved of duty.” He confirmed the department’s deputy chief of police, listed as Lt. Col. Kenneth Gregory on the agency’s website, would oversee the investigation.
Local media outlets reported the dispatcher used the n-word to refer to a north St. Louis County precinct officer.
This comes months afterBarton fired a contract instructor for the St. Louis County and Municipal Police Academy for allegedly uttering racial slurs during a class on Oct. 20.
“We are tired of hearing remarks from our community leaders such as ‘we are appalled, shocked and surprised’ when it comes to race relations and the use of racial slurs within St. Louis County and its justice department,” NAACP President John Bowman wrote in a statement. “The cries and calls for justice, equity and acknowledgement of underrepresented parties in these areas continue to go unacknowledged.”
The Ethical Society of Police echoed those sentiments. The Society is an association of more than 300 police officers, park rangers and civilians that advocates for racial and gender equity in law enforcement.
Black officers speak out
On Monday, the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, Inc., along with 12 other criminal justice organizations from across the nation, expressed their solidarity with ESOP in the call for reforms to address systemic racism and discrimination in the St. Louis County Police Department.
“We are disgusted with the racist comments made by one of their dispatchers,” ESOP leadership wrote in a statement. “Swift and immediate action is an appropriate step, however, more is needed. There have been several racist incidents to occur and will continue to occur until leadership is willing to make a true change. “
In mid December,ESOP publicly called on Barton and other police officials to address the inequitable treatment and discrimination against minority officers on the force. The letter came as ESOP waited for Barton to address concerns they presented to her approximately six months prior.
Barton has not responded to the letter as of Monday, ESOP’s general counsel William E. Dailey Jr. confirmed.
Barton has led the department as chief since May 1, when shebecame the first woman in the role in St. Louis County. Her appointment came with some controversy, not centered on her gender but rather her race, as it appeared that several qualified Black candidates were passed up for the position.
One of those candidates, Lt. Col. Troy Doyle, filed a complaint in July with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that he had been passed over for St. Louis County police chief because he is Black. This complaint is the first step before an individual files a race discrimination lawsuit.
Doyle claimed St. Louis County Executive Sam Page influenced the police board to pass him over for police chief because Doyle is Black due to pressure from Page’s campaign donors.
Before the August primary, however, County Counselor Beth Ordwick said Doyle’s attorney Jerome Dobson tried to extort a $3.5 million settlement for Doyle by offering to withhold the discrimination claim if Page settled. In July, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell asked federal investigators to investigate Dobson's conduct.
Doyle commented on Saturday’s event via Twitter.
How can we ever expect to gain community trust when we continue to have incidents such as this. I feel sorry for the many officers who had to endure this pain and the disrespect that this language brings to our community. Immediate termination is recommended! https://t.co/s3xg4OpIr1— Lt. Col. Troy Doyle (@Tmann69) January 10, 2021
Two other St. Louis County police lieutenants filed a lawsuit against the department in November alleging they were denied opportunities to advance their careers because they are Black. Those men, Lt. Ray Rice and Lt. James Morgan, are members of ESOP.
That lawsuit is still working its way through the court. Dobson is also representing Morgan and Rice.