St. Louis-area faith and civil rights leaders demanded that the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department fire three officers who were accused of sharing and writing racially charged posts on social media.
Representatives from Christian, Muslim and LGBTQ communities met at St. Louis City Hall Wednesday to express their dissatisfaction with how the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department disciplined the officers after officials became aware of the posts.
Last week, the Plain View Project, a watchdog database, published the posts of 23 St. Louis officers. They were among hundreds of posts by police officers the organization discovered across the nation.
“To believe that they serve and protect our community was very, very sad,” said the Rev. Spencer Lamar Booker of St. Paul A.M.E. Church. “We called together a cross section of people, ministers, imans from all walks of life, sexual orientation, to come as a unified voice.”
The Plain View Project found posts from social media accounts dating back to 2013. Mayor Lyda Krewson had stated the posts were “disturbing and unacceptable.”
Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said the St. Louis officers’ posts were made before the city implemented its social media policy in September 2018. He said some of the officers were disciplined in earlier years. Edwards said the policy is not retroactive.
Edwards said he had intended to apply it to social media posts made in previous years, but that was an unpopular proposal.
“Back in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, those officers were disciplined, whether it was an oral reprimand, a written reprimand or suspension,” he said. “In addressing it, do I have the right lawfully to go back five years and re-discipline them or discipline them more harsh?”
Edwards said an internal affairs investigation into the posts is ongoing.
Civil rights leaders also criticized the sensitivity training officers are receiving to ensure more equitable treatment between officers and civilians to prevent prejudices. Faith leaders said they hope to be a part of the training.
“You need someone from the inside of the culture to be able to tackle and take care of all of the issues that the police department might face by dealing with certain cultures,” said Djilali Kacem, the imam of Dar Aljalal Masjid, the Islamic Center in Hazelwood. “You can’t claim that you can know everything about a culture.”
Edwards said city officials welcome that collaboration. He said he has met with several area leaders about the officers’ posts.
“They mayor and I have agreed, they should participate, I think the muslim population should participate, I think the preachers should participate,” Edwards said. “Anybody that believes they have been harmed or have an idea with respect of how to improve race relations in the city of St. Louis, then I want to hear from them.”
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