St. Louis police officer receives racist letter

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St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson

ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis’s police chief has ordered internal and criminal investigations to determine who sent a letter through interdepartmental mail that threatened the life of a Black officer and said he was not welcome in the south patrol division where he works.

Police Chief Sam Dotson said he’s taken steps to ensure the safety of the officer, who received the letter about a month ago but did not immediately report it.

“I’m frustrated and disappointed,” Dotson said of the letter, which he became aware of last week.

The typed letter, which was in a sealed white envelope, is laced with profanity and a racial epithet. It threatened not to respond if the officer called for help and included a death threat, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/17NvQGe ).

Dotson would not specify what steps he took to ensure the officer’s safety, but he said that “in an abundance of caution, I wanted to do everything I could to reassure him that we were taking this seriously.”

In a department-wide email sent Friday, Dotson said racism or discrimination of any kind would not be tolerated in the police department and anyone involved in that type of activity “will not have a place here with us.”

The Ethical Society of Police, which represents Black police officers, said in a letter to its members Tuesday that it would meet with Black police commanders within the next week to discuss the lack of diversity among high-ranking officers in south patrol, where the highest-ranking Black officer is a lieutenant.

The lack of minority commanders may have created an environment where someone felt comfortable enough to put a racist letter to an officer in a public mailbox, said the group’s president, Sgt. Darren Wilson. He said members in the south patrol have said they are uncomfortable there. He said the officer who received the letter didn’t report it right away because he felt intimidated in the patrol.

“Do I believe this is reflective of our department? I’d like to say no, but this is scary,” Wilson said. “This has shown that it has the potential to be more prevalent than we think or would imagine it being.”

Wilson said his organization is “confident” in Dotson’s initial response and so is the officer. But he said the group plans to follow the case to be sure whoever is responsible is held accountable.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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