St. Louis County police chief ‘surprised’ by no-confidence votes

Chief Mary Barton said she was surprised at the votes of no confidence recently cast against her by the black officers organization and St. Louis County Council

ST. LOUIS – St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton said she was “surprised” by voices of distrust from an organization that mainly represents black officers and the county council, despite months of public criticism of its leadership.

The resolution read in part: “Barton fiddled through the position of boss.”

Barton gave 5 On Your Side a 15-minute interview criticizing the council, which voted 4 to 3 votes against a no-confidence resolution against them on Tuesday. She also defended her performance as the county’s top police officer after grassroots organizations also criticized her leadership.

RELATED: St. Louis County Council Passes a No-confidence Decision Against Chief Mary Barton

“I’m absolutely surprised because if there were so many problems with what I was doing I probably would have heard of them by now,” she said. “This sudden resolution, without giving me the opportunity to speak about it or respond to your concerns, was terribly disappointing and, in my opinion, completely unprofessional.”

She continued, “I would have hoped that if they had these problems, or believed they had these problems, they would have spoken to me or asked to speak to me about it and dealt with it professionally rather than doing it A very public document that is inaccurate or probably the best place they could have chosen for their perceived problems with me. “

The resolution is a non-binding document, but will be sent to Barton’s chiefs – the Board of Police Commissioners. It is a five-member board of directors – three of its members were selected by County Executive Sam Page.

On Thursday, Barton wouldn’t say if she felt she had the support of the police or Page.

“I feel like the police (board of directors) support this department and its decisions, policies and procedures, and that is their job here,” she said. “And I also feel that they have made it very clear that we are moving forward and that they want to work with the County Council, the Ethical Society, the Fraternal Order of Police and all internal stakeholders to make this an even better police force do . ”

Some of the issues the Ethical Society raised during its year-long tenure are:

  • The use of the “n-word” by her brother-in-law on an open police microphone, followed by the government’s admonition to the commanding officer, who spoke out against it. In response, Barton’s spokesman Sgt. Benjamin Granda wrote, “The disciplinary proceedings regarding the dispatcher were resolved as quickly as possible and directed by the deputy chief of police after Chief Barton apologized again.” The council also criticized a newsletter congratulating dispatcher Mark Peeler on his retirement. Internal documents received from 5 On Your Side Show Peelers have ended. Granda wrote: “The police department had no role in the preparation, approval or distribution of the document mentioned here, which was sent on 02/09/2021. This is done by the St. Louis County government. “
  • An officer hoisting a three percent flag in front of his home near his flagged patrol car.
  • Her statement “To say that there is systemic racism in the police force is too broad and probably incorrect” to the county council in June 2020.
  • Three racial discrimination lawsuits filed against the department by black police commanders
  • The sacking of two trainers who used racist slurs at the police academy

RELATED: The Ethical Society of Police issues a vote of no confidence in St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton

Most recently, the organization criticized Barton’s decision to remove Officer Shanette Hall from the recruiting department and put her back on patrol. Hall is a board member of the Ethical Society and recently gave national media interviews speaking about the racism black women face.

Barton said Thursday that she has been reassigned 12 times during her 40-year career in the department – and none of them were of her choosing.

“I can say that in my realm as boss there has never been any retaliation that discriminates against the transfers made here,” she said. “Not everyone will be happy with the referrals made, but they must be based on what is best for the police department and for the efficient and effective operation of that department.”

In a statement on Thursday, the Ethical Society wrote: “St. Louis County is biased and racist and on many levels, from the academy to the dispatchers. The department needs a capable leader and transformative change, and it needs that now. On December 7th, we called on Chief Barton to take concrete action to address systemic racism in a meaningful way. She had enough time to make more substantial progress than words and meetings. Only a few weeks before this six-month mark, it is clear that these milestones cannot be achieved.

“The waiting time is over. Both the ESOP Board and St. Louis County Council have done their job by not declaring any confidence in Chief Barton. It is now time for the Board of Police Commissioners to act in the best interests of the public. We’re all watching now, waiting for them to do the right thing. “

St. Louis County Police Association leaders say they share some of the Ethical Society’s concerns and are currently surveying its 915 members to assess how Barton’s administration is contributing to low morale, according to Executive Director Joe Patterson.

Patterson said the police union met with Barton regularly and made them aware of many issues, including the criminal offenses of officials from their preferred posts to seek revenge for a variety of reasons.

“I’m blind that she’s blind, to be completely honest with you, because we’ve been talking about it for almost a year. I think it’s factually inaccurate to say that the boss had no idea this was coming,” said Patterson. “Overall, the St. Louis County Police Department is an excellent law enforcement agency, but we are not without our problems.

“It will take a brave leader to get us through whatever situation we are in and with the right leadership we can do it, but Chief Barton has to decide if she is the right leader.”

Barton said Thursday the police union and ESOP had a seat at their table.

Granda said that since Barton took office on May 1, 2020, 15 general orders, 12 special orders and five bulletins have been created or updated, including the department’s advertising policies that “incriminated” the police union and ethical society, the safety of the Detainees and accountability guidelines, as well as updating arrest reports and booking detainees to reflect transgender, intersex, and sexually abusive individuals.

Barton also cited the following initiatives as examples of their success:

  • A “complete reorganization of the department” to make things more efficient
  • The creation of the Bureau of Community Engagement
  • Admission to the ABLE program
  • Creating a Homeless Outreach Officer
  • The addition of more officers to the crisis intervention team
  • Partnership with the Center for Policing Equity
  • The “Courageous Conversations” program, in which there are “serious and open discussions about races”.
  • Signed a Memo of Understanding with the Ethical Society of Police recognizing them as a membership organization. The organization criticized Barton’s predecessor, Jon Belmar, for failing to sign it, and criticized her and County Executive Sam Page for taking too long to sign it as well.
  • Involve the Police Union and the Diversity and Inclusion Department in the “Process of Redesigning Our Processes and Policies”.

Barton also said she plans to work to mend relationships with those who have said they do not trust her.

“Starting with the county council, I will continue to work for the members who supported me to maintain that support, and for the members who did not support me, I will try harder to work with them because I believe that this relationship is absolutely necessary for the effective functioning of this police station. “

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