The organization representing African American officers of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department says it has lost confidence in chief Sam Dotson.
"We are tired," said Ethical Society of Police president Sgt. Heather Taylor, at a Tuesday press conference. "We're exhausted with some of the internal practices under chief Sam Dotson. We feel undervalued as officers."
The Ethical Society, with 215 members, advocates on behalf of minority employees of the department, both civilian and sworn officers. There was no official vote of no confidence. Taylor said the statement was based on the expressions of discontent leaders have heard from members.
"Making the decision to call this press conference wasn't an easy thing to do," Taylor said. "In fact, it was a very difficult thing to do. We all love being police officers. We love the community engagement aspect of it. But we also realize that there's a problem."
The Ethical Society's concerns center on four main areas:
- A lack of a comprehensive community engagement plan
- A lack of a comprehensive plan to reduce crime in the city
- Promotions that are based on relationships, rather than qualifications
- A lack of diversity in the department's command staff
"We're not saying that Chief Doston has been totally inept," Taylor said. "He hasn't been the worst at what he's done. We just feel like he's not listening."
Dotson said the no-confidence vote caught him off guard. He said he and Ethical Society leaders had a productive meeting on Nov. 20, and none of those issues came up.
"If you want to cause real change, let’s sit down and talk about it," Dotson said. "Let’s sit down and work on it together. If this was an act to get the media’s attention, it certainly worked, but I don’t know if it’s helping the agency."
He said he has asked Adolphus Pruitt, the head of the St. Louis branch of the NAACP, to help facilitate a conversation.
This isn’t the first time the Ethical Society of Police has sparred with Dotson. In 2013, its members demanded changes to the recruitment and promotions process to improve the department’s diversity. A July 2014 Facebook post also claimed a lack of confidence in the chief, although the association's leadership has changed since then. The society has also filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the promotion process.
Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann