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.
Page announced on Monday that Civic Progress and the Regional Business Council are funding a review of the county police department. Two retired police chiefs from other states, Charles Ramsey and Daniel Oates, will lead the study.
A press release from Page’s office said the study will “explore the best ways to provide instruction, including cultural, racial, and community sensitivity training, de-escalation training, and implicit bias training.”
The statement went on to say that the study will also explore the “roles that police officers play in the public safety system – including an important review of where other professionals, such as nurses, advocates, and social workers, can provide a more tailored response in cases such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and mental health crises.”
“It will examine how to best implement effective community policing strategies in St. Louis County,” Page said during Tuesday’s county council meeting. “It will help reduce violent crime and protect civil rights.”
The study comes a few weeks after St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton drew widespread criticism for her comments at a St. Louis County Council committee meeting. Barton said during that meeting she did not see systemic racism in the department. She later clarified her remarks, stating, “I do acknowledge and believe that racism, sexism, and many other similar forms of discrimination are present in our society and that people suffer trauma as a direct result of experiencing them.”
Page said on Tuesday it’s important to do a deep dive into the role of racism in law enforcement.
“Systemic racism is ingrained in St. Louis and all of our institutions — including law enforcement,” Page said. “We have to have the humility to see where we fall short and the urgency to do something about it.”
The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners would be responsible for implementing its recommendations. One of the members, Dr. LJ Punch, was “enraged” by the announcement, adding, “it was done with zero input from me,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Board of Police Commissioners Chairman Ray Price said he welcomes the study, adding he was “thankful that anyone would wish to help the police department and address its needs.”
“I think we need to focus on racial healing in this community,” Price said. “And anything that would help us in that regard would be a benefit for all the people of St. Louis County. It would also be good if they could show us concrete steps we can take toward that and increased community policing — anything that can assist us in performing our duties with respect to all the people of the county.”
Price also added the study would need to be conducted expeditiously in order to have impact.
“It doesn’t help us to have a study that won’t be completed for two years,” Price said. “The study has to be done quickly, and it has to give us concrete steps to resolve current problems.”
A spokesman for Page said he anticipates the study beginning in a few weeks. County police Lt. Col. Troy Doyle will provide coordination with the review.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum
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