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Racial Bias Rampant, Ex-Police Chief Says

CLAYTON, Mo. (CN) - The former police chief of Ladue claims the city fired him because he did away with ticket quotas and refused to racially profile black people. Larry White was police chief in the affluent suburb 10 miles west of St. Louis from June 2007 to Aug. 13, 2009.

White says he immediately did away with traffic ticket quotas for officers. But in 2008, he says, Mayor Irene Holmes pressed him to have his officers write more tickets because the city expected a $300,000 budget shortfall due to highway construction.

White claims that even though he didn't require a quota, his officers actually wrote more tickets through aggressive and professional police work.

He also claims Holmes encouraged him to racially profile African-Americans.

"Shortly after White was hired as the Ladue Police Chief, he had several conversations with Holmes in which Holmes advised him that she wanted 'those people' to be pulled from their cars so that others would see what was going on and avoid the City of Ladue," according to the complaint in St. Louis County Court. "White understood 'those people' to be African Americans found within the city's limits.

"Thereafter, White was advised that when the previous Police Chief was in office a concerted effort had been made to arrest as many of 'those people' as possible."

White says Ladue's racial profiling data back up his claim.

According to city data from 2006, the year before he became chief, 22.5 percent of the traffic stops made by Ladue officers involved African-Americans, though African-Americans made up just 1 percent of Ladue's population and 10.7 percent of the state's population.

In that same year, 48.3 percent of those arrested after a traffic stop in Ladue and 42.7 percent of those searched during a traffic stop were African-Americans.

Within 2 years, White says, his efforts to eliminate race-based traffic stops brought the city within a more reasonable range of statewide demographics. White said in 2008, 14.5 percent of Ladue's traffic stops involved African-Americans as did 38.6 percent of traffic stop-related arrests and 37 percent of searches.

White says he also pushed for stronger DWI enforcement. When a Ladue police officer was recognized by MADD for his work, White commended the officer at a City Council meeting.

"At the conclusion of the meeting, Councilperson (Anthony) Bommarito (who owns a liquor business) made inquiry as to the locations of these DWI arrests," according to the complaint. "Bommarito made it clear to White that he was to make sure 'our people' were not being arrested for DWI. White understood 'our people' to mean the residents of the city."

White says that Holmes told him to vigorously enforce DWI laws, except for Ladue residents. He claims he was told that officers in the past had given drunken Ladue residents rides home instead of rides to jail.

In another incident, White says Holmes asked him to make the arrest of a child of one of Ladue's prominent citizens to "go away." He said Holmes was not pleased when he did not comply.

White said Holmes again showed her racism towards African-Americans when a young black girl drowned in the pool of a Ladue resident.

"Holmes was indignant that MICDS (a private school) would allow an African-American child into the school, presumably on scholarship," the complaint states. "Additionally, when White advised Holmes of arrests and other significant incidents within the city, Holmes would always inquire into whether the person involved was African American."

White says he was fired on Aug. 13, 2009 at Holmes' recommendation. He claims his firing was in violation of public policy because he refused to go along with the city's illegal practices. He seeks punitive damages for conspiracy, wrongful firing, and whistleblowing violations. He is represented by Eli Karsh with Liberman Goldstein & Karsh in St. Louis.

The City of Ladue, Mayor Holmes and the city's seven council members are named as defendants.

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