NewsThe NorthSider

ESOP alleges lying, bias, lack of action by police union

ST. LOUIS – Black city residents are not the only ones with gripes about race relations with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Even black police officers continue mounting charges of racism and discrimination, issues that have been festering for some time now. 

Last week on Twitter, the Ethical Society of Police (ESOP) called out city police detective Sgt. Kevin Ahlbrand, also president of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police, asking him about alleged lying, unequal representation and head-turning. 

Ironically, in 2015 Ahlbrand was one of 16 people appointed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon to the Ferguson Commission established to usher in healing, harmony and change after the Ferguson unrest. 

The tweets began on June 13 with the ESOP (@ESOP_STL) asserting racism in the SLMPD from the SLPOA and Jeffrey Roorda, its spokesman. 

The tweet read: 

“The racism in the SLMPD from the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) and their Spokesperson/Business Manager Jeffrey Roorda is accurate. The SLPOA defended white cops that shot and beat black cops in two separate incidents in 2017, but not their own black cops/members.” 

Ahlbrand, or @kafop, tweeted: “Can you please advise which ‘black cops/members’ were not offered legal protection? Legal protection is a benefit of membership to all, paid for by dues. SLPOA does not decide who gets representation. Duty to represent is mandated to all union members.”

The @ESOP_STL  responded: 

Sgt. Kevin Ahlbrand, you know who! Some are Luther Hall and Milton Green, by their own words and their lawsuits. Why did you lie and say Luther fell instead of him being beat by SLPOA officers? SLPOA had secret meetings minus the victim (Luther) to ‘get ahead’ of what happened.”

Audrey Brooks, known on Twitter as @Mickey1Fan, responded in the thread to @ESOP_STL, posting: 

“Not to mention not one statement condemning Jeff Roorda, when he posts racist and derogatory things on Twitter and Facebook. If there are any statements, please point me to them so I can read them.”

Alhbrand didn’t respond to email from The NorthSider. However, Roorda responded, denying that he is a racist and calling the accusations of racism, discrimination or inequality in representation against him and the SLPOA absurd. 

“Of course I don’t hate black people,” he said calling the phrasing of the question a bit offensive. “I have biracial nieces and nephews, and the baseless accusations by ESOP are quite hurtful … particularly, when they know the truth.”

Going on, he wrote: 

My union and I represent far more minority members of the department than ESOP and we have far more black officers that are members. Even though only about 25 percent of my membership is black, almost 50 percent of the grievances I file are on behalf of black members. Other than grievances over transfers, the type of grievances I file most frequently are discrimination grievances.” 

According to the SLMPD’s website, the city has about 1,300 officers. The ESOP represents more than 200 officers, but because the group began including St. Louis County officers in 2018, some members may work there instead of for St. Louis.

Then Roorda wrote: 

“My organization has raised and donated far more money for black officers in need of assistance than ESOP has. And I personally have been involved in a number of charitable functions that benefit African-American kids in the community including backpack programs and ‘Shop with a Cop.’ I was directly involved in raising money and hand-building two playgrounds in Ferguson and North St. Louis in minority neighborhoods that cost over $40,000.”

In summation, he wrote: 

“ESOP is being dishonest in their personal attacks against me just like they are dishonest when they call themselves the ‘black police union’ and call us the ‘white union.’ They are not a union. There is only one legally authorized union for city cops, and that’s the St. Louis Police Officers Association, and we represent black and white officers equally. I don’t know why you would give any credibility to an organization that misrepresents its very purpose.” 

The SLMPD emailed this statement after being asked by The NorthSider what city police Chief John Hayden’s response was to the ESOP’s claims and efforts to eradicate racism within the department: 

“First, we can tell you as a result of the Plainview report, the chief had the Internal Affairs Division complete an investigation in which some officers were disciplined. Currently, we are contracted with consultants to conduct Continuing Education Training department-wide, that will address race relations and other biases, from July through December of this year.” 

Mayor Lyda Krewson’s spokesman, Jacob Long, directed The NorthSider to the police department for answers regarding race relations within the department, but confirmed the officer training in racial sensitivity. 

The mayor, he said, “Supports all law enforcement and appreciates them – whether they are black or white – or where they come from or any other factor. She certainly appreciates their selfless dedication and their commitment to serve and protect our community. 

The ESOP did not return a phone call or email to the The NorthSider.

Bill Beene Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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