Interim Bellefontaine Neighbors police chief promises to hire mo - KMOV.com

Interim Bellefontaine Neighbors police chief promises to hire more African-American officers

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(KMOV.com) -- The conflict between Bellefontaine Neighbors police and community activists once again was part of a discussion at the Bellefontaine City Council meeting. It appears police are already practicing some of changes that were privately discussed during meetings with the U.S Department of Justice.

At the meeting last night, Interim Police Chief Jeremy Ihler pledged a commitment to more community policing and a much stronger push to hire black officers for the all-white department.

Rev. Phillip Duvall and Gloria Nickerson are two of the community activists who attended private meetings with city officials and the U.S Department of Justice. These meetings were started because of accusations that the city police were using a quota system for tickets and arrests and threatening to discipline officers who didn't meet monthly quotas.

News 4 Investigates discovered the police department had increased traffic cases 130 percent during the last two fiscal years, by far the biggest increase in St. Louis County.

Nickerson was impressed with what she heard from Interim Chief Ihler. “He took a lot of the information that we had discussed in our DOJ meetings for the past 6 weeks or more and he stated that he had already implemented some of them,” Nickerson said.

News 4 made several attempts to reach Interim Chief Ihler to hear more about what he's doing to run a more responsive and inclusive department, but he has not responded yet.

Rev. Duvall was also cautious, saying Bellefontaine Neighbors has disturbing similarities with Ferguson before the shooting of Mike Brown. Unlike Ferguson, Bellefontaine Neighbors has no black officers, but like Ferguson, two-thirds of the population is black. Rev. Duvall says some, especially young black men, feel like police have picked on them for minor violations.

"This is a Ferguson waiting to happen. They have duplicate demographics and they have similar behaviors. We pray there's not another shooting because this department and this community will suffer greatly," said Duvall.

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