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St. Louis County officer who won discrimination suit to head new ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ unit

Lt. Keith Wildhaber

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The St. Louis County Police Department will launch a new Diversity and Inclusion unit in 2020. And the person appointed to lead the new unit recently won a discrimination lawsuit against the department.

In a statement, Chief Jon Belmar said the unit will make sure the department fosters an inclusive working environment and better reflects and welcomes the diversity of its officers and the community at large.

Lt. Keith Wildhaber, who was recently promoted, was asked to be the unit’s inaugural commander.

Back in October, a jury awarded then-Sgt. Wildhaber with a $19 million verdict in a discrimination case against the department. Wildhaber had claimed that he’d been passed over for promotion more than 20 times because of his sexual orientation. Wildhaber said he was also told by colleagues to “tone down your gayness.”

In late November, Wildhaber agreed to enter mediation to reach a settlement and avoid lengthy court appeals.

Russ Riggan, Wildhaber’s attorney, said his clinic had accepted the offer to lead the new unit and issued the following statement Thursday evening:

“We are excited for, and proud of, our client, Keith Wildhaber, for being promoted to a lieutenant position to lead the police department’s new Diversity and Inclusion Unit.  This is hopefully a crucial first step for the County in making necessary changes to its culture in order to better serve the citizens of St. Louis County.  We are also looking forward to participating in the mediation process next week and hope to be able to achieve a fair resolution that allows the parties to put an end to this difficult and long-running litigation battle.”

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