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Jurors award $19 million to St. Louis County police sergeant in discrimination case

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CLAYTON, MO - The St. Louis County Police Department will likely see leadership changes soon. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced on Sunday he will be naming new members to the St. Louis County Police Board. Part of his statement read, "The time for leadership changes has come and change must start at the top. We will begin with the appointment of new members to the police board, who oversees the police chief. An announcement on those appointments is forthcoming."

The announcement comes just 2 days after a St. Louis County jury returned a $19 million judgement against the St. Louis County Police Department. St. Louis County Police Sgt. Keith Wildhaber sued the department claiming he was passed over for promotion opportunities because he is gay.

 St. Louis County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy said the case revealed a homophobic culture within the department that warrants a resignation from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, “I have a lot of concerns that if the police can’t treat their own with respect and dignity than how can we expect that from them when it comes to protecting and serving our community members,” said Clancy.

Clancy said all St. Louis County departments should review their culture to ensure there is no place for discrimination, “We have been hearing at the council and as leaders in county government concerned for a very long time about how the police department treats certain segments of our community, particularly people of color but now in this case people who are gay.”

She went on to say it’s the actions of those who led to the $19 million judgement that tarnishes good officers who protect and serve their community without discrimination.

Our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report police commanders offered testimony during the case that was later contradicted with evidence and could lead to a perjury investigation.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell’s office released a statement reading, “Upholding the integrity of the judicial process and law enforcement is of the upmost importance. While we are aware of this issue and what allegedly occurred at trial, we have not reviewed the matter (e.g. transcripts, exhibits and the full breadth of the trial materials). As it is irresponsible to speculate and draw conclusions prematurely, we will review the matter (as we would any potential allegations) and follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

We reached out to the St. Louis County Police Department to see if Chief Belmar was available to respond to Councilwoman’s Clancy call for his resignation.  A spokesman for the department said there would not be a response at this point and time. The spokesman said questions regarding the lawsuit should be directed to the St. Louis County Counselor’s Office.

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