‘I have an obligation to lead’ Chief Belmar says department moving forward after $20 M judgement

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — FOX 2/News 11 reporter Elliott Davis sat down with St. Louis County Police Chief Belmar today. He asked him first about a $20 million dollar judgment against the St. Louis County Police Department. St. Louis County Police Sgt. Keith Wildhaber sued the department claiming he was passed over for promotion opportunities because he is gay.

"I am surprised by the verdict. I feel that it is important for us to move forward," said Chief Belmar.

Elliott Davis said, "The jury believed that there was a homophobic atmosphere in the department. Do you believe that is true?"

"I don't believe that is true," said Chief Belmar. "The perception of that is important. We need to react to that perception."

Belmar was also asked if he was thinking about resigning after the judgment by the jury.

"I have an obligation to lead the department out of this crisis," said Chief Belmar.

The St. Louis County Police Department will likely see leadership changes soon. St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced he will be naming new members to the St. Louis County Police Board.

St. Louis County Councilwoman Lisa Clancy said the case revealed a homophobic culture within the department that warrants a resignation from St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, “I have a lot of concerns that if the police can’t treat their own with respect and dignity than how can we expect that from them when it comes to protecting and serving our community members,” said Clancy.

Clancy said all St. Louis County departments should review their culture to ensure there is no place for discrimination.

Our news partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report police commanders offered testimony during the case that was later contradicted with evidence and could lead to a perjury investigation.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell’s office released a statement reading, “Upholding the integrity of the judicial process and law enforcement is of the upmost importance. While we are aware of this issue and what allegedly occurred at trial, we have not reviewed the matter (e.g. transcripts, exhibits and the full breadth of the trial materials). As it is irresponsible to speculate and draw conclusions prematurely, we will review the matter (as we would any potential allegations) and follow the facts wherever they may lead.”

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