Jon Belmar | St. Louis Public Radio

Jon Belmar

Lt. Col. Mary Barton was named St. Louis County's chief of police on March 19, 2020.
St. Louis County Police Department

Updated at 8:55 a.m., March 20, with comments from the Ethical Society of Police

St. Louis County has its first female chief of police.

The Board of Police Commissioners announced Thursday it selected Mary Barton, who currently commands the West County Precinct, to lead the department starting May 1.

“The Board listened to the community, worked fast and hard to complete the selection process. The Department needs consistent and steady leadership as it deals with COVID-19 and the other challenges facing all police departments in this nation,” Ray Price, the chairman of the board, said in a statement.

Councilman Tim Fitch, R-St. Louis County, poses for a portrait in the St. Louis Public Radio studios on March 2, 2020.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Councilman Tim Fitch is the latest guest on Politically Speaking. The St. Louis County Republican joined St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum and Rachel Lippmann to talk about some of the biggest issues circulating throughout county government.

Fitch, a former St. Louis County police chief, was first elected to the county council in 2018, succeeding longtime Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger. He represents the council’s 3rd District, which includes Town and Country, Huntleigh, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Fenton and Sunset Hills.

The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners at a public comment session in south St. Louis County on Feb. 26, 2020.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The decision by the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners to keep the search for a new police chief within the department received support Wednesday night from residents of South County.

The board announced last week that officers at the rank of captain or higher — 23 in all — will be eligible for promotion to replace Chief Jon Belmar. He announced earlier this month that he will retire April 30 after more than six years as chief and 34 with the department.

St. Louis County Police Board members Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin
JULIA O'DONOGHUE | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

At a meeting in Florissant to get public comment on selecting a new St. Louis County police chief, residents said they want a leader with integrity and the ability to communicate effectively with people from different communities. 

Several people who attended the meeting Wednesday also said the county’s new chief should come from within the department’s ranks.

“We need someone who has strong relationships with the community and is ready to lead on day one,” said Terry Wilson, a councilman and school board member in Jennings. 

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
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The latest edition of Politically Speaking’s weekly roundup show zeroes in on two big stories that made waves in St. Louis County government: Police Chief Jon Belmar’s retirement and the settlement of Lt. Keith Wildhaber’s discrimination case.

Those two events occurred within hours of one another. And St. Louis Public Radio’s Jason Rosenbaum, Julie O’Donoghue and Rachel Lippmann explained how they’ll impact county government going forward.

Keith Wildhaber
JULIA O'DONOGHUE | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Lt. Keith Wildhaber has no plans to leave the St. Louis County Police Department anytime soon, even though the county is going to pay him millions of dollars over the next two years as part of a discrimination lawsuit settlement.

“I got 26 years in. I want to finish my career on my terms,” Wildhaber said Wednesday in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch — the first time he’s spoken publicly since reaching the settlement.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

Updated at 1:15 p.m. Feb. 12 with comments from Wildhaber's attorneys

St. Louis County has agreed to pay a police officer $10.25 million to settle a workplace discrimination verdict.

A jury in October awarded Lt. Keith Wildhaber, who is gay, nearly $20 million after agreeing that he had been passed over for promotions because of his sexual orientation. The two sides then went into mediation to try to reach a settlement.

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
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 6:45 p.m. Feb. 10, with details of Lt. Keith Wildhaber's $10.25 million settlement with St. Louis County

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar will retire April 30 after 34 years with the department, six as chief

“It has been an honor to work with and for the women and men of the St. Louis County Police Department,” Belmar said in a statement released Monday. “The dedication, sacrifice, and bravery of those that work for this department is unmatched. The citizens and businesses of St. Louis County deserve nothing but the best, and I firmly believe they receive that from us every day.”

He was not available for any additional comment Monday, according to the department.

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

The St. Louis County Police Department is changing the way it compiles information to include more specific data on reported crimes.

The department has switched from the Uniform Crime Reporting program to the National Incident-Based Reporting System to comply with a national standard, Police Chief Jon Belmar told the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday.

The FBI updated the standard to help officials gather better information on victims of alleged crimes and on the relationship between victims and offenders.

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

The St. Louis County police officer who successfully sued the department for failing to promote him because he is gay has been promoted.

The department announced Thursday night that now-Lt. Keith Wildhaber will head its new Diversity and Inclusion Unit. 

Thomasina Hassler, left, and Laurie Punch were approved as members of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioner on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday approved two new members of the Board of Police Commissioners, completing a nearly entire turnover of the body responsible for overseeing the police department.

While the council easily approved Thomasina Hassler’s nomination to the five-person panel, there was more dissension over Dr. Laurie Punch’s appointment.

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
File photo I 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
File photo I 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 Chairwoman Lisa Clancy (left) and County Councilman Ernie Trakas (center) both have proposals to change the county's panhandling regulations.
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.

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