ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV.com) - Members of the Ethical Society of Police (ESOP) say they’re fighting for a seat at the table.

Monday, the organization made claims of systemic racism against the St. Louis County government and police department.

For 13 months, members say county leaders have been dragging out the process of finalizing a memorandum of understanding.

“This process has been a hard on for us,” said Sgt. Heather Taylor, President of ESOP.

ESOP says they’ve been fighting for months to be recognized as an official organization within the St. Louis County Police Department.

“We are trying to improve the lives of the people in this community and the police department but in order to do that, we must have a voice,” Taylor said.

The organization that has been around since 1972 fights discrimination within the police department and community. They formed their chapter in St. Louis County in 2018.

“You have people of all different demographics that are officers, they have to have a say, especially it’s those same minority communities that are being damaged by bad police officers,” Taylor said.

Numbers from St. Louis County police show of the 763 officers on staff, only 76 are black.

Hours after ESOP announced they were holding a news conference, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page signed the order.

“It makes no sense that it took this for Dr. Page to sign it, so when we say systemic racism, you’re witnessing it right now and we won’t stop,” she said.

The new order recognizes ESOP as an employment association that can advocate for officers. It also allows ESOP members to have an attorney of their choosing present during disciplinary action proceedings.

If there’s an officer involved shooting, that officer will be allowed to use an ESOP provided attorney, and and the county will hold regular meetings with ESOP.

St. Louis County police sent the following statement:

Under the leadership of the Board of Police Commissioners and Chief Mary Barton, the St. Louis County Police Department will continue to meet with concerned groups, including the Ethical Society of Police. We will not waver in our efforts to improve our Department and its operations in any way. We will ensure that the policing services being provided are fair, effective, and responsive to the needs of the diverse community we work for.

Page sent the following statement:

The biggest challenge facing St. Louis County is systemic racism.

We see it play out in various forms, but it’s at the root of all the fundamental flaws of our community and our country.

But acknowledging systemic racism is only the beginning. We must all work together to end it.

As county executive, I’ve insisted that all policy decisions be made through a lens of equity, and that diverse voices are at the table when we make those decisions.

My commitment is to do all I can to change the course of this country to one that truly is a place where there is justice for all, equal opportunity for all.

But I can’t do it alone. Government can’t do it alone. I’m calling on corporate leaders, faith-based groups, community service clubs and schools to be all-in when it comes to change.

A response to system racism should not be political. Decisions should be made on whose needs are the greatest, working with those who have been left behind and walk with them side-by-side as we work on a path forward.

News 4 Reporter

Ashli Lincoln is a general assignment reporter for News 4 St. Louis

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