Belmar suspends training over complaints of racial, homophobic slurs

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The St. Louis County Police Department has severed ties with a private company contracted to train its officers after learning of complaints that a trainer used racial and homophobic slurs.

According to our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chief of Police Jon Belmar sent a letter to department staff on Thursday announcing his decision.

The Post-Dispatch learned an instructor at Asymmetric Solutions, a Farmington-based “special operations company,” had used the n-word and used a homophobic slur to criticize officers on a firing range. The chief said he contacted the owner of Asymmetric Solutions, who apologized and removed the problematic trainer. However, Belmar said the department will no longer utilize Asymmetric Solutions for training.

Belmar praised the officers who reported the inappropriate comments and encouraged others to do the same in the future.

You can read Chief Belmar’s letter to the department below:

Police Staff:

A little over a year ago this department contracted with Asymmetric Solutions with the goal of giving every police officer advanced training in critical thinking, armed confrontations, conflict resolution, de-escalation, and police legitimacy.

Although the training overall has received overwhelming positive evaluations, it has recently come to our attention that an instructor for Asymmetric Solutions has at times conducted himself in a very unprofessional and sometimes offensive manner. This behavior was not consistent with our values and contracted our expectations.

As a result, the owner of Asymmetric Solutions was immediately contacted, has taken full responsibility, and has relieved that instructor from any further training with the St. Louis County Police Department. However, it is my decision that Asymmetric Solutions training will be immediately suspended.

I would like to commend the officers who came forward to inform this department of this unacceptable behavior and allow us to deal with it immediately.

Should there be any further issues or concerns in the future, please do not hesitate to contact your precinct or bureau commander.

Sincerely,
Colonel Jon M. Belmar
Chief of Police
St. Louis County Police Department

Asymmetric Solutions released the following statement late Friday evening in response to the story in the Post-Dispatch:

On March 27, 2018 AS Management was contacted by STL County PD Leadership concerning a reported issue with an individual instructor during the recurring 3 Day Officer Development Course. The issue at hand was the instructors use of a racially charged, highly inappropriate word during the de-escalation segment of the class wherein the topic and scenarios surrounding offensive language used toward police officers was being discussed. AS management was asked to inquire and prepare findings which follow:

The instructor is a 20 plus year SOCOM Special Operations Veteran (Green Beret), who has participated in multiple conflicts. He has been employed with AS for approximately three years. He is well aware of standards of professionalism and decorum as well as AS Company culture. The instructor has regularly worked on the STL County 3 Day Officer Development Course for the last 12 months. His work has met with excellent reviews by more than 400 County Police Officers of all races, genders and preferences and no previous incidents of lack of appropriateness or animus toward any group of individuals have been noted in that time. He has been very dedicated to the task spending additional uncompensated time working with officers and attending “ride along” sessions to better understand the distinct challenges STL County officers face.

Upon hearing the above stated concerns from STL County PD Leadership, AS Management immediately called in the Instructor for questioning about the incident. The Instructor immediately admitted to the use of the word while describing an incident he witnessed in which he and STL County Officers were subject to verbal beratement by a suspect during an arrest he was witnessing. The purpose of describing this incident was during a discussion of the use of vile and inflammatory language by individuals police officers may encounter, and the officers’ necessary duties of non-emotionalized actions and attempts to de-escalate the interaction. The purpose of this segment is to assist police officers with the mental and verbal tools not overreact in order to prevent unnecessarily escalating situations into potential violence or violations of citizens civil rights. The Instructor stated very clearly his words did not have his endorsement as acceptable in common usage and had no purpose to offend any of the attending officers. The following day, AS Management received a note sent the day of the class and passed through chain of command from an AS employee observing the class stating that he was concerned about the inappropriate nature of the use of the word in totality.

AS was founded on the principals carried over from the heart of the U.S. Special Operations mission of fighting oppression on all fronts. The company has a substantial history of supporting the disenfranchised whether escorting minority journalists into Ferguson, working with disabled children, or providing free relief and assistance for impoverished victims of natural disasters at the request of civil rights leaders. Our students and employees come from many diverse backgrounds and cultures. Our domestic Law Enforcement programs have centered around training law enforcement personnel to work with the many cultures found inside the United States’ populations in a starkly unbiased and non-offensive manner.

Even the slightest perception of hate driven predilections such as racism are exceptionally dangerous to police activities. As the police are projections of municipal power, it is imperative, especially in the view of the sometimes-ugly history of the United States and police powers, to maintain the public trust by extinguishing even the slightest suggestion of bias in police policies and personnel.

The Instructor is very conscious of the long held special operations tenants of working with varying cultures and belief systems while taking great care not to be offensive, biased or accepting of taboo subjects for any reason. This is part of what he was teaching inside of the class. While AS believes the Instructor did not have designs of promoting hateful ideas and only held good intentions to educate the class, the Instructor failed to consider his actions and unacceptable use of words in light of their potential effect on the law enforcement officers in his class as individual people. The Instructor additionally failed to consider that in his position the use of the word even in that context, might transmit to students a level of acceptability in the hatred connotated with it.

It is our position that even unintentional offenses of such serious bias must be swiftly purged from policing as they discredit departments and jeopardize the entire mission of not only policing but government in whole. This action sends a message to the offended within the department that the department tolerates no form of prejudice or partiality. It additionally sends a clear message to the rank and file that they must take exceeding care in their future words and actions. The lack of tolerance for bias of any type must go all the way to the upper echelons of leadership.

In this case, we must practice what we preach. Despite this Instructor’s otherwise excellent record, on March 28, 2018 we unanimously decided to permanently remove the Instructor from his duties and issue this finding along with a sincere apology to the department and all the participants of the March 27, 2018 class. The ugliness of bias cannot and will not be tolerated by this organization. All future classes will be audio recorded and monitored by AS management for any hint of biased or inappropriate speech.

We would additionally like to correct the reporting that the slurs were used to correct officers at the range. While absolutely inappropriate they were not directed at an officer as corrective or directed at any officer at all. They were used in the context of vile language officers may hear when confronting subjects.