St. Louis County Police Chief unexpectedly steps down

Missouri

CLAYTON, Mo. – St. Louis County Police Chief Mary Barton is unexpectedly stepping down from her position. Her office is cleaned out. Barton tells the Board of Police Commissioners that she is officially retiring.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that she will be leaving her post after accepting a large settlement after filing a federal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She alleged discrimination.

Barton made a short appearance before the Board of Police Commissioners.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for 43 wonderful years of service at the department and that I am officially announcing that I am retiring. I wish you the best to whoever follows in my footsteps. I will always wish the best for this police department. Thank you for the opportunity to speak,” said Barton.

Kenneth Gregory

The St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners has appointed a temporary replacement for Barton. Deputy Chief Kenneth Gregory will now be serving as acting chief effective today.

Commissioner Michelle Schwerin, Chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, stated, “I would like to thank Chief Barton for her 43 years of service to the citizens of St. Louis County. Chief Barton’s dedication and commitment to the Department is illustrative of why the St. Louis County Police Department is one of the finest departments in the country.”

The St. Louis County Council passed a symbolic vote of “no confidence” in April. They said she fumbled her way through her job and there are serious concerns of mismanagement during her short tenure.

The resolution criticizes Barton for how she handled accounts of racism in the department along with disciplinary measures and personnel issues, including allegations of officers being transferred as a form of retaliation.

Barton told FOX 2 in April that there is racism in the department but says she is working to address it. She also denies making transfers out of retaliation.

Statement from the Ethical Society of Police:

Mary Barton has dedicated 40 years of her life to public service in one of the most noble and challenging professions there is.  As the first female St. Louis County Police Chief, she is undoubtedly a trailblazer and a source of inspiration for others with similar career aspirations. For that, she should be commended. Yet, she should not receive an automatic payout when she has allowed a culture to exist that discriminated against several protected classes. 

The news of her resignation is not surprising. As Chief, her tenure has been plagued by leadership failures to say the least. Therefore, we believe it was in the best interest of the department and citizens of St. Louis County that she steps down. County Executive Sam Page and the Board of Police Commissioners have an opportunity to select the best qualified candidate who has widespread support from a broad demographic spectrum within the region.  

The culture of discrimination within the St. Louis County Police Department extends beyond Chief Barton. In fact, the individual named as acting deputy chief is at the center of discrimination lawsuits. A thorough process for selecting the next Chief, including input by organizations such as the Ethical Society of Police, is critical to ensure new leadership is ready on day one to address complex issues, including racism, that are pervasive in the Department.  

We believe there are several well respected and capable candidates to choose from as a replacement. We are encouraged by the potential for St. Louis County to continue to break down existing professional barriers with the selection of a chief capable of mending fractured relationships between the department and the community it serves.

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