A law enforcement organization that represents minority police officers is calling for metro area cops to protest the St. Louis County Police Department until it formally recognizes them.
The Ethical Society of Police, which began in St. Louis city and has frequently criticized abusive policing, expanded in April into the county. Sixty of the department’s officers have joined so far, says the organization’s president, Heather Taylor.
Ethical hoped to formalize its relationship with the county through a memorandum of understanding. But County Police Chief Jon Belmar informed the group earlier this month that wasn’t going to happen.
Belmar was not available for comment late Monday afternoon, but in a letter dated November 1, he says his department can’t sign the memorandum because it has an exclusive bargaining agreement with the local chapter of Fraternal Order of Police.
“As you are aware, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 111, is the state certified exclusive bargaining agent for St. Louis County bargaining units,” Belmar writes, adding, “Due to this fact, the St. Louis County Police Department is unable to enter into the proposed MOU.”
But Ethical described the decision as unconstitutional, and called on all cops in the region to drop their F.O.P. membership until the county recognizes Ethical.
“There is no legal or practical justification for the SLCPD to refuse our organization official departmental status and doing so sends the wrong message to our officers and the community,” Taylor said in a prepared statement.
The proposed memorandum says Ethical specifically “does not seek to be recognized as a bargaining unit,” according to a copy provided to the RFT. It does ask, however, that members be able to contact the organization for representation in all disciplinary and personnel matters.
Taylor plans to speak at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the St. Louis County Council meeting, along with more than twenty others, including state representatives and church leaders.
Over the years, Ethical has pushed for larger numbers of minority officers in law enforcement. We published a cover story in June about its training and recruitment program. The organization’s leadership has also been outspoken on the topic of police abuse, frequently calling out fellow cops accused of using excessive force.
In his letter, Belmar says the county has made “great strides” in recruiting in recent years, thanks to implementing a cadet program and through the Police Athletic League.
Taylor says neither of those programs are likely to increase diversity of the department anytime soon.
“We believe much more needs to be done to develop a police department that reflects the demographics and issues of the community, and to support the minority officers already in the department,” she says.