ST. LOUIS (CN) — Luther Hall was just doing his job and he got beaten by his fellow police officers for it.
Hall, who is Black, was working undercover in St. Louis monitoring protests on Sept. 17, 2017, that stemmed from the not-guilty verdict two days earlier of Jason Stockley, a white city police officer accused of killing a Black man following a high-speed pursuit.
Four white officers mistook Hall for a protester and beat and arrested him without probable cause. The indictment against the officers, who still face federal charges, said they sent each other text messages before the protest expressing excitement about using unjustified force against demonstrators and going undetected while doing so.
While such actions may shock the conscience of most, it came as no surprise to some.
“It's not shocking to us,” said retired Sergeant Heather Taylor, spokesperson for the Ethical Society of Police, a minority police union. “It's shocking to everyone else, but it's something that we've dealt with forever that we've been fighting forever.”
Hall, who is still employed by St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, suffered multiple injuries including herniated discs. Recently, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the city has agreed to pay Hall a $5 million settlement that has yet to be finalized.
Days after news of the settlement broke, Troy Doyle filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County. Doyle claimed County Executive Sam Page promised to make him the county’s first Black police chief, but caved to political pressure and hired Mary Barton, a white woman, instead.
Within a week, the two largest police entities in the St. Louis region were each dealing with legal cases involving accusations of systematic racism.
The Forgotten Mission
The motto of police is “to serve and protect.” But who they are serving and protecting is a matter of debate.
“It's not untrue for segments of the community who gets to get served and protected by police” to feel secure with the level of policing in their neighborhoods, said John Chasnoff, co-chair of the Coalition Against Police Crimes and Repression. “But the other mission, which is not often talked about, is to work on behalf of the upper classes and manage the lower classes, and essentially repress and contain the lower classes.”
Chasnoff said that a permanent underclass of racial minorities has been created in America and the unwritten rule of policing is to keep that group subservient.
“Both those missions are really central to the police department and we do focus a lot that American policing came out of slave-catching slave patrols, but the other half of that story is that it also came out of the early 19th century experiments in England in the creation of the London Metropolitan Police Department,” Chasnoff said.
The London Metropolitan Police Department was designed by Sir Robert Peel’s experiences in suppressing worker revolts in Ireland and the Irish Rebellion.
That tradition continues in St. Louis with the city department’s official name – the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
Enter the Ethical Society of Police.
It was founded in 1972 by African American police officers to address race-based discrimination within the community and the city police force. In 2018, the union expanded to the St. Louis County Police Department.
Doyle is a member of the union. The county executive did not respond to an email requesting comment on Doyle’s lawsuit.
“We deal with racism,” said Taylor. “We've dealt with it in the city, and we transitioned over to the county, so it's not new to us.”
The St. Louis Police Officers Association boasts a larger membership and is the collective bargaining agent of the men and women of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.