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The Jaco Report, Ep. 11: Leader of Ethical Society of Police says ‘definitely racism’ in force

A 19-year veteran of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Force, homicide detective Sgt. Heather Taylor says she feels like she has a target on her back every time she goes to a crime scene. But it’s not the bad guys who put the target there. It’s her fellow officers. 

She points to a white St. Louis officer who has made online postings about his fantasy of watching Taylor “bleed out.” 

“Other black officers are angry, livid, that someone could like the idea, someone I work with, that I’m supposed to protect, and serve with, that likes the idea of me bleeding out, dying,” Taylor said, shaking her head at what she says is a regular occurrence for black officers on the city’s police force. 

Taylor is head of the Ethical Society of Police, an organization formed by black officers in 1972 to address racism in the ranks of the St. Louis police department. She says some things have not changed in the almost two decades since she became a St. Louis police officer. 

“I think we have an issue with a culture that sometimes believes we’re above the law,” Taylor said. “There’s definitely racism within our police department.” 

 Appearing on The Jaco Report, Taylor said she often fears for her personal safety on the job when she was asked “When you say you go out on a scene and you’ve got a target on your back, you’re not referring to the bad guys gunning for you, are you? You’re referring to your fellow officers?” 

Without missing a beat, Taylor said emphatically, “At times, yes. At times, yes. 

Taylor also criticized Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards for taking credit for turning in several officers accused of misconduct to prosecutors. She said it was the Ethical Society of Police, not Edwards, who has dug into past internal affairs reports and brought them to officials’ attention. Last week on The Jaco Report, Edwards said that he was the one who had brought those misconduct allegations to prosecutor’s attention. 

Taylor also criticized several top commanders in the city police department, without naming them, for helping maintain a culture of misbehavior and racism. She praised Police Chief John Hayden for, in her words, “rooting out the problem.” 

“Those commanders now know if they don’t straighten up, they’ll be gone, thanks to the chief,” Taylor said, claiming that past chiefs of police had not seemed interested in weeding out police officers accused of racist, violent or unprofessional behavior. 

“There’s a culture that has existed within the police department for years that excused bad behavior,” she said. “We still have a lot of those people that are here in high-ranking positions that allowed this mess to occur.” 

Taylor also said the ESOP has been successful in getting new, black recruits to enroll in the city’s police academy, but that more needed to be done to bring more minority officers into the overwhelmingly white city police department. 

Charles Jaco

Charles Jaco is a journalist and author. He has worked for NBC News, CNN, KMOX, KTRS, and Fox 2. He is best known for his coverage of the first Gulf War, and for his "legitimate rape" interview with Senate candidate Todd Akin. He is the winner of three George Foster Peabody Awards, and the author of four books.

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