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White US Cop Passed Over for Promotion Files Discrimination Complaint

© AFP 2023 / MICHAEL B. THOMASA St. Louis County Police Officer
A St. Louis County Police Officer - Sputnik International
A black candidate was chosen over him, but was it really all about race?

Lt. Col. Lawrence O'Toole, a white police commander from St. Louis, Missouri, has filed a complaint after a black candidate named John Hayden was chosen over him for a promotion to the position of city police chief. O'Toole alleges that considerations of race or retaliation influenced the decision of his superiors.

O'Toole, a 34-year veteran of the department, filed a dual complaint with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which the officials received on July 10, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"That's unfortunate. That's just not the case," St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson's spokesperson, Koran Addo, said, as reported by the local outlet July 18.

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O'Toole was Krewson's personal pick to serve as an interim chief for nine months after the abrupt resignation of former Police Chief Sam Dotson. During his service as an interim chief, Krewson reportedly said she had "full confidence in Chief Lawrence O'Toole and appreciates his leadership."

Despite that, the city initiated both internal and nation-wide searches for a candidate to fill the position of full-time police chief.

​According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the six finalists of the search were ranked based on a management assessment test and interviews with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Citizen Advisory Committee. O'Toole ranked fourth.

It was Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards who eventually selected Hayden, a 30-year-old veteran of St. Louis force, for chief back in December.

Edwards declined to comment on O'Toole's complaints, as did Hayden. Hayden did say, however, that he believes he was chosen for his his professional skills and record. According to him, Krewson wanted someone with a stellar reputation, a proven track record, leadership skills and other qualities.

"I think I fit that bill," Hayden said. "No other chief in the history of the department has been through a nationwide process…. And I was number one when that was over. I think that says it all."

​O'Toole, on the other hand, despite being a veteran who has served in most of the department's units — including the Bureau of Professional Standards, the Bureau of Community Policing and SWAT — has faced criticism regarding several incidents during his career. First, he faced criticism for his comments on how the police handled mass protests in September 2017, where indiscriminate mass arrests took place. During the same night, a black undercover police officer was reportedly injured by the police after his colleagues failed to recognize him.

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Commenting on the incident, O'Toole said the police "owned tonight," drawing criticism even from Krewson, who called his comments "inflammatory." She did vow to stand by him, however, at that time.

Another incident in June 2017 involved friendly fire. An off-duty officer was shot in a skirmish with suspects by a just-arrived reinforcement officer, who failed to recognize that his colleague was not actually a suspect.

O'Toole attempted to cover the incident by saying the off-duty officer was shot by a suspect. However, the department later confirmed the incident was in fact a case of friendly fire. To make the situation worse, the injured officer was once again black, while the shooter was white, sparking comments from Ethical Society of Police about the danger of racial bias among police officers.

Now, O'Toole alleges racial discrimination and retaliation for not being chosen as chief of police. City officials declined to comment on the specific allegations he made in his complaints.

"We made sure the process was fair and equitable and in accordance with civil service merit principals," Richard Frank, the city's director of personnel, said, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "So I was a little surprised we got this complaint, but so be it."

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