When the news broke Friday of Barton’s retirement, I found sympathy for her plight from an unlikely source. In 2018, after a decade in the St. Louis County Police Department, Nikki Brown left the force. Brown, who is Black, had filed an EEOC complaint alleging racism and sexism in the police academy, where she had been an instructor. She complained to Belmar, who, in a letter, basically told her he was sorry that at least one fellow instructor was using racial slurs. “Steps have been taken,” to make sure it doesn’t happen again, Belmar told Brown in a letter she received long after she had left.
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Brown, who is the sort of officer who St. Louis County should have wanted to rise in its ranks, left for another department. Then she earned a doctorate in higher education leadership. Now she works in education.
That’s what the department she used to work for needs, she told me after she heard of Barton’s retirement: education.
“I can only imagine (Barton) had little to no support, allies or mentoring in that role from within the department,” Brown said. “The police commission wanted to diversify leadership yet without understanding or caring about the dynamics of the culture in the department to support change.”
For too long, the culture of the police department has been to run away from its internal problems, to bury them, and spin them in the media, rather than do the heavy lifting of bringing about change. The Wildhaber case is a great example. He was hardly the first person to complain about discrimination in the department, whether related to LGBTQ issues, or racial discrimination. At trial, he testified to being given a “geography lesson,” shorthand for punishment through a change in work assignment for officers who complain. According to court testimony, two members of Belmar’s command staff who were involved with executing geography lessons were Doyle and Lt. Col. Kenneth Gregory.
Originally Appeared Here