ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – St. Louis County Acting Police Chief Kenneth Gregory is not short on experience. But this new experience leading the department is one the 69-year-old admits he’s still getting used to.
“This may just grow on me and it may just chase me away from it. I don’t know yet. I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. I know there’s a challenge for this department for me to work on, and I’m looking forward to dealing with those challenges,” Gregory said.
Chief among those challenges, allegations of racism and discrimination within the department. Gregory’s predecessor, Mary Barton, retired in July after accepting a $290,000 payout from the county related to a discrimination complaint she filed with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
That complaint was dismissed as part of a settlement agreement. Barton faced scrutiny during her brief stint as chief for how she handled racial issues.
Fox 2’s Mike Colombo asked the department suffers from systemic racism.
“I think every major agency, including this department, suffers from systemic racism. We want to eliminate that from our department,” Gregory said.
“If they feel like they’re still dealing with those racial issues, we want to eliminate those things. I’m directing myself to do that, along with my executive command staff.”
Gregory says fighting crime requires resources and respect. That means officers on patrol building trust in the communities they serve.
“You don’t want to defund us and take us off the street, that’s for sure. I know most county residents want more cops on the street to help in the situations in their neighborhoods,” he said.
“We want to get more cops on the street to help them in their neighborhoods. That’s why we’re doing the best we can recruiting and we’re going to do better as far as getting people out there.”
Gregory tells Colombo he doesn’t just want more officers, but better-trained officers to handle the changing culture and demands of policing.
“I think me sitting here is a change in our culture. I just need for the community to give us time to make those changes,” Gregory said.
With a picture of a man who campaigned on change feet from where he works, Gregory hopes his time at the top of county police will open doors for others.
“Sixty-six years and there’s never been a person of color sitting at this desk. Hopefully, that’s a sign for young people out there to pick up on, and say I can do that too,” he said.