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Ethical Society of Police hopes new St. Louis law will fix disparities of how officers are treated

Ethical Society of Police president Sgt. Heather Taylor speaks to a forum on disparities in the St. Louis police and fire departments on July 7, 2016. Her organization has called on chief Sam Dotson to resign.
File photo | Wiley Price | St. Louis American
Sgt. Heather Taylor, president of the Ethical Society of Police (shown here in a July 2016 file photo), says she hopes the city's whistleblower law will lead to changes in the police department president.

The organization that represents St. Louis' minority police officers plans to use a new whistleblower law to push for changes in the way officers are promoted, transferred and disciplined.

The law, which Mayor Francis Slay intends to sign before leaving office, allows city employees to report "Improper Governmental Activities" by other city employees to a variety of city agencies.

A July 2016 report from the Ethical Society of Police outlined glaring disparities in the ways black and white residents are treated by the department. The same report also alleged black officers are punished more harshly than white officers, and are not promoted equally.

Sgt. Heather Taylor, the president of the Ethical Society, said she'll use the process in the whistleblower law to make sure the Civilian Oversight Board — which reviews complaints of police officer misconduct and is headed up by Nicolle Barton — sees the report.

"The Civilian Oversight Board has the ability to recommend changes in policy. That's huge," Taylor said. "I believe in what they can do for the police department. These are civilians, these are people from our community. These are not cops. We need to allow them to do that."

The law defines "Improper Governmental Action" as something done by a city employee in the course of their job that violates the law or presents a danger to public health or safety. The definition does not include things like promotions, transfers or employee discipline.

Redditt Hudson, a former SLMPD officer and a co-founder of the National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability, said department commanders are retaliating against Taylor because she told a St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist that the gunshot detection tool ShotSpotter went down for three months.

"They didn't tell the public, and that's a public safety issue," Hudson said.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.