St. Louis County Police Department | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County Police Department

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is backing a privately funded study of the county police department.

It’s a move that comes a few weeks after the county’s police chief denied there was systemic racism within her agency, comments that drew widespread criticism.

Col. Mary Barton, pictured May 1, 2020.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 5:45 p.m. June 11 with additional statement from Barton

St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton is further clarifying remarks she made about racism in the police department.

Col. Mary Barton, pictured May 1, 2020.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Mary Barton last week became the first female chief in the 65-year history of the St. Louis County Police Department. On the day she was sworn in, she sat down with St. Louis Public Radio’s Rachel Lippmann to talk about her long career and what she plans for the department.

Barton has worked in every precinct but one as a patrol officer, in the vice and drug units, and as a detective. Before her promotion, she commanded the West County Precinct. 

But she said there is nothing that can prepare even the most seasoned officer to take over one of the largest police departments in the state in the midst of a pandemic.

In an April 30, 2020 screenshot from YouTube, Col. Mary Barton's husband pins her new badge to her chest after she is officially promoted to chief of the St. Louis County Police Department.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Police Department officially has its first female chief in its 65-year history.

The Board of Police Commissioners on Thursday formally promoted Col. Mary Barton to the position. She replaces Jon Belmar, who retired after 34 years with the department, the last six and a half as chief.

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.

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. 

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 police Sgt. Heather Taylor is president of the Ethical Society of Police.
Heather Taylor

In mid-December, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page touted his police department’s promotion of Keith Wildhaber as a key step toward thoughtful change within the department. The news that Wildhaber will lead a new diversity and inclusion unit came in the wake of a $20 million verdict in Wildhaber’s favor — after a jury agreed that county police had discriminated against the gay officer because of his sexual orientation.

But the Ethical Society of Police, which represents many black officers in the St. Louis region, soon put out a statement that was significantly less enthusiastic.

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. 

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman | Flickr

In October, attorneys for St. Louis County fighting a discrimination case filed by a gay police sergeant made the argument that a judge should rule against him because Missouri law doesn’t include sexual orientation as a protected class.

The legal maneuver prompted an angry response from County Executive Sam Page, who said he was “horrified and surprised that argument was used, and I don’t want to see it used again.”

But outside attorneys hired by the county made that exact argument in a court filing this week.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page has nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, left and Thomasina Hassler to the county's Board of Police Commissioners.
Washington University School of Medicine, Thomasina Hassler via Facebook

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is keeping his promise to bring leadership change to the police department.

Page on Thursday announced that he had nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, a trauma surgeon, and Thomasina Hassler, a longtime educator, to the Board of Police Commissioners, which oversees the police department. He had two other nominees approved by the county council last week.

Former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Ray Price and Michelle Schwerin, an attorney at Capes Sokol, were nominated to the Board of Police Commissioners Friday. Nov. 4, 2019
File photo|Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday approved two new members of the Board of Police Commissioners — a move activists said doesn’t do enough to improve a culture that fails to punish officer misconduct.

The council also approved funding for outside attorneys to help with a legal response to a nearly $20 million verdict against the county for discrimination. And members called on the city of St. Louis to be more transparent in conversations about privatizing St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

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.

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.

Members of the St. Louis County Council meet on Sept. 3, 2019.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis County Council wants a 1,000-foot buffer zone in unincorporated areas between medical marijuana facilities and schools, houses of worship and day cares.

It’s a move that split the county council on Tuesday, with some members saying the buffer zone made sense — and others contending it’s too onerous.

St. Louis Region Copes With 15 Children Killed This Summer

Aug 23, 2019
Mary Norwood, the grandmother of 7-year-old Xavior Usanga, speaks to Alderman Brandon Bosley, D-3rd Ward and Maj. Mary Warnecke, the deputy commander of the Bureau of Investigations, on Aug. 13, 2019. Xavior was the 7th child killed in the city this year.
File photo | Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

Jason Eberhart, 16, was a football player ― like his brother who plays for Ball State University and his father who played for the University of Illinois.

“He comes from a family of football,” said his cousin and mentor Charles Shelton. “He was the middle child of five. We were really hoping that football was going to keep his mindset, but unfortunately life in the streets got the best of him.”

On Sunday, August 18, Eberhart died from multiple gunshot wounds in the Carr Square neighborhood at 2 a.m., and the investigation is ongoing. His family is taking his death very hard, Shelton said, which is why he was speaking on their behalf.

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.

Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

CHESS Cops was launched in February 2017. What began as a simple breakfast with officers and students enjoying chess over coffee and orange juice ultimately expanded into a multifaceted community outreach program.

The St. Louis Chess Club, St. Louis schools, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the St. Louis County Police Department partnered to start St. Louis CHESS Cops — or Chess Helping Enhance Student Skills. CHESS is currently comprised of city and county police officers who utilize chess to teach lessons on critical thinking, planning and logic.

Detective Melody Quinn of the St. Louis County Police Department leads a class outlining the myths and dangers of the sythetic opioid fentanyl, which was involved in the majority of the county's overdose deaths last year.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials from the St. Louis County Police Department want the public and the region’s law enforcement to know touching the synthetic opioid fentanyl won’t get them high or overdose.

Such myths could put overdose victims at risk, since emergency responders may be hesitant to touch or treat them.

In recent months, several police reports and media outlets have recounted stories of law enforcement officers getting high or sick after responding to overdose victims and getting fentanyl powder on their hands.

St. Louis County police officer Benjamin Granda joined producer Alex Heuer on St. Louis on the Air. April 16, 2019
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

High-speed police chases make for great television. Last month, FOX 2 helicopters picked up a chase that began with a carjacking in Illinois and ended with two suspects being arrested after they fled the vehicle in south St. Louis County.

But how and why officers decide to pursue suspects has been the subject of increasing scrutiny, including a recent St. Louis Post Dispatch investigation of St. Ann’s particularly aggressive pursuit policies within the municipality. On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, St. Louis County police officer Benjamin Granda joined producer Alex Heuer to discuss how officers decide when or when not to chase down a suspect, and how attitudes toward chases have shifted recently.

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.

County police and their families help pack the room as the County Council considers a police pay raise.
Jo Mannies/St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Oct. 31, 2017: Before a packed crowd, the St. Louis County Council gave final approval to a pay hike for county police beginning Jan. 1.  The vote of 6-0, with one absent, came after no debate. The result touched off lots of applause from police and their families packing the audience.

Our earlier story:

The St. Louis County Council got an earful Tuesday before members unanimously gave initial approval to a measure increasing county police pay beginning Jan. 1.  

For almost two hours, council members heard mainly from St. Louis County police officers and their families concerned that the pay hike might be blocked by a pension dispute between Council Chairman Sam Page and County Executive Steve Stenger. 

Money from St. Louis County helped build a community center and garden in the Castle Point neighborhood. The county has received a $1 million federal grant to do more community outreach like this.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County has received $1 million from the U.S. Department of Justice to get the Castle Point community in north county more involved in fighting crime.

Parts of unincorporated north St. Louis County have struggled for years with high crime rates. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger said the grant would help reverse that trend.

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