CLAYTON, Mo. -St. Louis area police have often been drawn into racial divides since Michael Brown's death in Ferguson four years ago, but the latest battle line is within St. Louis County's own department.
The Fraternal Order of Police is the collective bargaining unit for 860 rank-and-file county officers. But in April, several black officers concerned about lack of diversity and racial tension within the department asked the mostly-black Ethical Society of Police to serve as an alternative association. Sixty-four officers have joined.
Police Chief Jon Belmar refuses to sign a memorandum formally recognizing ESOP on the grounds that the Fraternal Order of Police has exclusive collective bargaining rights.
ESOP leaders say they don't want to be a bargaining unit, but want to promote diversity and represent members in disciplinary hearings.