Jon Belmar | St. Louis Public Radio

Jon Belmar

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sgt. Keith Wildhaber’s nearly $20 million jury verdict hit St. Louis County government like a lightning bolt. 

The huge award sparked internal and external scrutiny of one of Missouri’s largest law enforcement agencies about how it treats LGBTQ employees. It’s also prompted a debate about whether Missouri should pass more explicit laws to protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar speaks with a St. Louis Public Radio reporter at his office in downtown Clayton on Tuesday. Nov. 5, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says he was surprised by a nearly $20 million verdict against his department for discriminating against a gay police sergeant.

“Without getting too much into a conversation about the verdict, yes, I was surprised by it,” Belmar said Tuesday. “But I would say that we have to take a look at these things as an opportunity to move forward.”

Attorney Michelle Schwerin, center right, and former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price, center left, speak with attendees after answering questions from St. Louis County councilmembers. Nov. 4, 2019
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar appears to have the support of the two nominees to the Board of Police Commissioners — at least for now.

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin, an attorney at Capes Sokol, answered questions Monday from all but one of the County Council members who will vote on their confirmation. That could come Tuesday if background checks are completed in time.

Attorney Michelle Schwerin and former Supreme Court Judge Ray Price
Capes Sokol law firm, File Photo | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page nominated two new members to the five-person Board of Police Commissioners on Friday. 

Page picked former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and local attorney Michelle Schwerin. The lawyers are meant to replace Laurie Westfall, the widow of former County Executive Buzz Westfall, and Roland Corvington, a former FBI agent who stepped down from the police board earlier in the week.

The nominations still need confirmation by the county council. Neither nominee could be reached for comment Friday.

St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar on July 24, 2017.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On the latest episode of Politically Speaking, St. Louis Public Radio’s Julie O’Donoghue and Jason Rosenbaum take a closer look at some of the biggest political stories of the week.

Topping the headlines was turmoil in the St. Louis County Police Department after a jury awarded a nearly $20 million verdict to Sgt. Keith Wildhaber in his discrimination suit. That decision is prompting calls for sweeping change in one of Missouri’s largest local law enforcement agencies.

Police Chief Jon Belmar (left) and Ron Corvington (right) in 2014
File Photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 8 p.m. Oct. 30 with comment from Hazel Erby, county director of diversity, equity and inclusion — 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday promised changes to police department leadership after a sergeant won a nearly $20 million discrimination suit by arguing that he was passed over for promotions because he is gay. 

But a lawyer for the county last week argued that the judge should rule against Sgt. Keith Wildhaber because Missouri’s nondiscrimination act doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class. 

Public speakers at a St. Louis County Council meeting on Tuesday questioned the department’s commitment to reform and the sincerity of the county’s response. 

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page answers question on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, from a group of reporters. Page is poised to appoint new members of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

In the first St. Louis County Council meeting since a jury awarded a police sergeant nearly $20 million in a discrimination lawsuit, County Executive Sam Page on Tuesday promised “serious changes” in the police department.

That came just hours after the county Board of Police Commissioners announced it is hiring an outside consultant to review the department.

Police Chief Jon Belmar (left) and Ron Corvington (right) in 2014
File Photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The head of the St. Louis County board that oversees the police department quit suddenly Monday, a day after County Executive Sam Page said publicly he was seeking to replace members of the panel

The board’s chairman, former FBI agent Roland Corvington, resigned without explanation in a text message to Page on Monday.

St. Louis County Police Department Chief John Belmar gives update on case involving to shot police officers
File photo | Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and several county council members want an immediate change in police administration following a nearly $20 million verdict against the county in a discrimination lawsuit by a gay officer.

And one council member called on Police Chief Jon Belmar to resign.

Page released a statement Sunday that called for the appointment of new members to the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners. The commission is a civilian oversight board that reviews police department policies and appoints the St. Louis County police chief.

All 700 officers of the St. Louis County Police Department will be wearing body cameras in early 2020.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County is about to become the largest police department in Missouri to equip all of its officers with body cameras.

“I think this is an example of how we’re forward-looking and how we try to set an example for law enforcement in the state,” Police Chief Jon Belmar said in an interview on Wednesday updating the status of the body camera plans.

James Clark, the vice president of community outreach at Better Family Life, accepts a $200,000 check from Ed Dowd, the president of the St. Louis Crime Commission, on July 8, 2019.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

A leading figure in anti-crime efforts in St. Louis says the region has 18 months to get violent crime under control before it hits a skid that it’s “never seen before.”

“We have been naive for a very long time here,” James Clark, vice president of community outreach at Better Family Life, said Monday. “But the national perception of St. Louis is very, very dire. Corporations are not looking to come here. We are losing conventions. And the No. 1 reason is because of our crime and violence.”

St. Louis County council member Lisa Clancy expresses her support for Sam Page before voting for him as county executive Monday night.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council wants to force the owners of a former St. Ann mall that houses county services to appear before a committee investigating the lease. 

It’s part of a longstanding investigation into how former County Executive Steve Stenger entered into an agreement to move a number of agencies to the Crossings at Northwest, formerly known as Northwest Plaza.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar listens to U.S. Attorney General  Sessions' remarks. (03/31/17)
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Police Department is closer to having its officers use body cameras.

The St. Louis County Council gave initial approval Tuesday night to bills cementing a five-year agreement with Utility Associates Inc. County officers would get newer technology over the life of the roughly $5 million deal — as well as cameras that will be in police cars.

St. Louis County Councilman Sam Page, D-Creve Coeur, answers questions on Dec. 11, 2018, about initial passage of the 2019 budget.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Council members gave first-round approval to the 2019 budget, including major cuts to what St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger recommended.

It’s the second year in a row that the council has made reductions to Stenger’s proposed budget — a move council members believe is necessary to prevent jeopardizing the county’s reserves.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, along with County Executive Steve Stenger, unveil the department's Special Response Unit on June 5, 2018.
Abigail Censky | St. Louis Public Radio

Two-officer cars, special training, and a focus on community policing are the hallmarks of the St. Louis County Police Department’s Special Response Unit.

The unit began operating last week. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, County Executive Steve Stenger and members of the unit officially unveiled it Tuesday, at its new headquarters in north St. Louis County.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

St. Louis County police are a step closer to using body and dashboard cameras on a full-time basis.

The department on Tuesday officially asked companies to submit bids for 350 dashboard and 120 body cameras. Companies have until May 4 to respond.

A MetroLink train
File Photo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 9 a.m. July 26 with more details — There will be an investigation into whether the St. Louis County officers assigned to patrol MetroLink stations and trains violated any laws, the St. Louis County Council decided Tuesday on the heels of three reports by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

St. Louis County police Chief Jon Belmar on July 24, 2017.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 10:45 a.m. July 25 with County Council expected to consider a related resolution — St. Louis County’s police chief disputed allegations Monday that his officers aren’t working hard enough to keep MetroLink trains safe.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, along with James Clark of Better Family Life (left), announces on Thursday, June 29, 2017, that the department has turned on a gunshot detection tool called ShotSpotter.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

A network of sensors now dot a 4-square-mile area of north St. Louis County, touted by police as the latest way to crackdown on gun violence.

Officials are considering the addition of turnstiles to the MetroLink system.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Two homicides on or near MetroLink trains less than a month apart this year put crime on the transit system back in the spotlight, to the point that officials set aside $20 million for public safety and changed how the system that spans the Metro East and the St. Louis area is policed.

Those efforts and talk of adding turnstiles will mean nothing, however, if the people who ride the rails and buses don’t feel safe. Plus, closing off the system by adding turnstiles will take millions of dollars and several years.

Voters fill out their ballots at Central Baptist Church on Washington Avenue on March 7, 2017.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis’ March primaries are in the books. But don’t exhale quite yet: April’s municipal contests throughout the St. Louis region are only 22 days away.

Granted, these are typically low-turnout affairs that don’t attract as much attention as, say, a presidential election, but they’re often critical for taxation decisions. Plus, April elections can serve as pivotal showdowns for deciding the elected leadership of St. Louis County’s multitude of municipalities.

St. Louis Police Chief Jon Belmar joined Stenger on Wednesday in announcing the minimum standards proposal.
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

A measure to boost sales taxes to help law enforcement agencies may be going to St. Louis County voters.

The St. Louis County Council gave initial approval today for the ballot item. The one-half of 1 percent sales tax hike would partly go to the St. Louis County Police Department. The rest would go to St. Louis County municipalities.

Police chief Jon Belmar says funding raised by the tax would be distributed based on population and would go toward increasing hiring, salaries and access to technology like body cameras.

St. Louis County police officer killed in shooting

Oct 6, 2016
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar gives details of a shooting death of Officer Blake Snyder as a photo of the officer is shown during a press conference in Clayton. 10-06-16
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

A St. Louis County Police officer has died following an early morning shooting on Thursday. Officer Blake Snyder was responding to a disturbance call when he was shot.

The suspect is an 18-year-old male who is being treated for gun shot wounds at a local hospital. He was shot by a second police officer.

Ballwin Police officer Mike Flamion
Ballwin Police press release

Updated July 18 with news on Flamion's condition — The Ballwin police officer shot during a traffic stop on July 8 is paralyzed from the neck down.

The bullet that struck 31-year-old Michael Flamion caused "catastrophic damage" to the spinal cord, Ballwin Police Chief Kevin Scott said on Monday. Flamion remains on a ventilator to help him breathe.

police car lights
Jason Rojas | Flickr

Update Dec. 6- Police have identified the woman shot and killed by tactical officers as Sheilah Huck.

Two St. Louis County police officers shot and killed a 61-year-old white woman in north St. Louis County Saturday afternoon. Police said the woman was behaving irrationally and fired at the officers first.

Officers exchanged fire with the woman while trying to get inside her home in the 6600 block of Foothills Court near Florissant. Police said she had barricaded herself inside a few hours earlier, after shooting and injuring a neighbor woman.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar at a press conference Thursday, Sept.4
File photo by Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Are police throughout the country holding back on law enforcement in the wake of demonstrations that started with the shooting death of Michael Brown? A recent Senate hearing and a conversation with St. Louis County Police chief Jon Belmar gave a variety of perspectives.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger's proposal would impliment minimum standards for police departments to follow. If they don't meet those benchmarks, Stenger's office could effectively disband departments.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Update with response from Municipal League - The umbrella organization for the cities, towns and villages in St. Louis County are turning thumbs down on a proposal by the county executive that could lead to loss of control over their police departments. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger wants municipal police departments to hit certain training, hiring and operational benchmarks. And if they don’t meet them, his administration could effectively force cities to contract with other agencies.

St. Louis County Police form a line in front of protesters on Tuesday. They were put in charge of securing protests on Monday when St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger called a state of emergency.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 10 a.m. Friday with lifting of state of emergency. On a cloudless Tuesday night on West Florissant Avenue, the mood was relatively calm. A few dozen protesters, onlookers and media milled about on a parking lot – a far cry from chaos that struck the thoroughfare on Sunday night.

A young girl walks near a memorial for Michael Brown. Hundreds of people converged near the spot where Brown was killed to honor the 18-year-old
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Sunday was the first time Erica Garner stepped foot in Ferguson.

She’s the daughter of Eric Garner, a man who was choked to death by a New York police officer. She ventured to the St. Louis region to pay tribute to Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who became a symbol for a growing movement to change policing.

Protesters on West Florissant surround a police car on August 9, 2014. Looting broke out shortly afterward.
(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Last year’s shooting death of Michael Brown was the end of a police encounter that lasted no more than five minutes.

The aftermath shook the region for weeks. In that time, hundreds of officers from police departments across the region would deploy to Ferguson under what would become known as the Unified Command.

Two members of that command -- Capt. Ron Johnson of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and chief Jon Belmar of the St. Louis County Police Department -- sat down to reflect on what they have learned in the past 12 months.

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