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St. Louis County Police Promote Gay Officer Who Won Discrimination Suit To Lead New Diversity Unit

St. Louis County Police car
Paul Sableman

The St. Louis County police officer who successfully sued the department for failing to promote him because he is gay has been promoted.

The department announced Thursday night that now-Lt. Keith Wildhaber will head its new Diversity and Inclusion Unit. 

“The Police Department must demonstrate to our officers and to our community that we prioritize diversity and inclusion,” Chief Jon Belmar said in a statement emailed to media. “Creating this unit will help to formalize those priorities in our decision-making and will guide our work to improve public safety in St. Louis County.” 

According to Belmar’s statement, the unit will focus on improving diversity and inclusion within the department, and on the ways the department serves “diverse communities.” Wildhaber and the officers under his command will also be in charge of looking at the effectiveness of current and future diversity programs.

Wildhaber filed suit in 2017, alleging that the department discriminated against him because of his sexual orientation, and then retaliated against him when he complained. A jury in late October awarded him nearly $20 million. The county has asked a judge to overturn that verdict, and the case is currently in mediation.

A spokesman for County Executive Sam Page said Wildhaber’s new position is unrelated to ongoing negotiations.

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