After an application process narrowed down the choices for the police chief to two candidates, the mayor demanded a redo because the finalists were both “white men.” After her comments were made public, she received some bad news.
After St. Louis Chief of Police John Hayden announced his plans for retirement, the city set out to select his replacement. Although the mayor had selected the last chief, the city’s independent personnel department decided it should choose the next one. What started with 30 applicants was narrowed down to two candidates.
However, as soon as Mayor Tishaura Jones discovered that the finalists were both white men, she put her foot down. The mayor insisted that the process by which the department used to choose the police chief was racially biased. However, it was her own comments about the finalists that reeked of discrimination.
The St. Louis American reported that Mayor Jones interrupted the application process with a press conference, during which she demanded that the department restart the search for the new police chief. Her sole qualm with having to choose between the finalists was that they were white men.
“I only had two white male candidates to choose from and St. Louis is more diverse than white males, our police department is more diverse—there were a lot of diverse candidates within the police department who were kicked out of the first round so I want to start over to find the right candidate,” Jones said.
Jones insisted the department redo the campaign in order to give her a more racially diverse final lineup. Trying to fulfill her demand would mean that the department would have to reject candidates based on their race and gender, which is an illegal tactic. Unfortunately for Jones, she didn’t have the authority to stop the process.
“The Mayor does not have unilateral authority to restart the police chief search herself. That is up to the Department of Personnel and the St. Louis Civil Service Commission. The Mayor’s hope for the people of the City of St. Louis is that there is a fair and transparent application process to select the most qualified candidates. She views the Civil Service Commission’s concerns about the lack of virtual testing and marketing firm as valid,” the mayor’s office said in a statement.
Despite her own racially tinged comments, Jones was adamant that the department’s process is discriminatory. She pointed to the fact that the department only administered a written test to the two finalists after it rejected 30 candidates nationwide.
“There were flaws in the current process and we promised the community an open and transparent process, and this is not that,” Jones said.
Following Mayor Tishaura Jones’ comments, Chief John Hayden put his retirement temporarily on hold. While Hayden was in charge, the city saw a record-breaking homicide rate, and his department was rocked by multiple high-profile scandals.
The finalists in question were St. Louis Metropolitan Police Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence O’Toole and SLMPD Lieutenant Colonel Michael Sack. O’Toole filed a lawsuit against the city and police department, claiming he suffered discrimination because of his race even before the mayor’s statements.
O’Toole claimed that he would have been chosen as police chief in 2018 if not for his race and the racial tension affecting the national climate. The suit cited ongoing retaliation against him that resulted in lost wages, humiliation, and mental anguish. He requested damages in excess of $25,000.
Whether the department was guilty of discriminating against applicants in the process is unclear. However, Mayor Jones’ comments sent a message to citizens that she would be unlikely to ever choose a white male for the chief of police if she had her way.
Even if Jones was right in accusing the department of discrimination, she has proven her own bias. She doesn’t want a white male in the position, and she was willing to do everything in her power to ensure that never happened.