No ‘Need’ for Black Police Chief: Black Lieutenant Colonel Misses Out on Promotion Because of ‘Pushback’ from Influential Community Leaders, Lawsuit Alleges

A Black police lieutenant colonel filed a lawsuit against St. Louis County on Feb. 9, alleging discrimination after he was passed over for a chief of police promotion that was instead given to a white woman of lower rank.

Lt. Col. Troy Doyle was poised to become the St. Louis County Police Department’s first Black police chief in fall 2019 until chances of the promotion were dashed following resistance from influential members of the community, his claim alleges.

According to court documents, County Executive Sam Page told Doyle he was receiving “push back” over the appointment of a Black chief of police. At the time, Page was also having campaign contribution problems and lagging behind his opponents in terms of fundraising dollars, local station KSDK reported.

Sam Page (left) reneged on his promise to Troy Doyle (right) that Doyle would be named chief of police in St. Louis County, Missouri, according to a lawsuit. (Photos: KDSK YouTube screenshot)

Page allegedly told Doyle he was “shocked” by what a few members of the St. Louis Police Foundation said about Doyle’s potential appointment and that he would have thought he was “living in the 1960s,” based on what was said.

The foundation is known to provide significant support to candidates it supports, according to the suit. The foundation said in a statement that it never communicated neither “verbally or in writing” about the police chief position.

But Doyle said in the suit that members’ influence led him to miss out of the promotion.

“Page and/or individual members of the St. Louis Police Foundation and/or individual members of Civic Progress exerted influence on the Board and/or some of its members to oppose (Doyle’s) appointment to the Chief of Police position and to advocate for the selection of a white person,” according to the suit.

In the lawsuit, Doyle alleges he was passed over for the promotion for the appeasement of campaign donors who did not want to see a Black man as chief of police. He claimed Page bent to the will of racists and major donors by reneging on his promise.

Doyle filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2020. The commission granted him the right to sue on Jan. 22.

Page told Doyle he was “having difficulty pushing this across the finish line,” a phrase he regularly used in reference to Doyle’s chief appointment, according to the lawsuit.

On March 19, 2020, the promotion was ultimately given to Capt. Mary Barton, a white woman with a lower rank. Doyle, a 28-year veteran of the force, claimed in the suit that up until 2020 only candidates with the rank of lieutenant colonel or above could apply for the chief of police position, until the Board of Police Commissioners changed the rules to allow captains to apply.

According to the suit, Page invited Doyle to his home in 2019 and said he was “the right person for the job,” “it was the right thing to do,” and that it would be “historic” to appoint him to the role.

Page’s former chief of staff, Winston Calvert, also had Doyle speak to former St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson for advice on being chief, the lawsuit says.

Doyle also met with Page’s campaign director, Richard Callow, and Donald Suggs, president and publisher of the St. Louis American newspaper, to discuss an endorsement, according to the suit. He also met with two individuals who would be appointed to the Board of Police Commissioners prior to his official interview.

In the suit, Doyle claimed Page told him the pair was “impressed” by him. He was given a 20-minute interview with the board.

According to the suit, “A white member of the Board stated, when discussing (Doyle’s) candidacy for the Chief of Police position, that (the county) did not ‘need’ a black Chief of Police,” and “A white member of the Board stated, when discussing (Doyle’s) candidacy for the Chief of Police position, that (the county) did not ‘need’ a black Chief of Police.”

Doyle’s attorney Jerome Dobson released a recording in July of Page telling Doyle “the board does what I tell them to do.”

Page later insisted that he doesn’t control the board. He has appointed four out of its five members.

Lt. Col. Troy Doyle believes he was passed over for a promotion to police chief in St. Louis County, Missouri, of race. (Photo: KSDK YouTube screenshot)

After Barton was named chief, Page and members of his administration offered Doyle various roles in the county government and created a new Director of Public Safety role, the lawsuit says.

“(Doyle) was not interested in these efforts and perceived these overtures to be an effort to buy him off,” the lawsuit states.

When Doyle accepted a role as a liaison between the police department and a consulting firm, and notified Page, Page joked about how members of the group would respond.

“Page told (Doyle) he couldn’t wait to see the faces on the two Civic guys who asked Page what he was going to do about the Black guy and they hoped Page didn’t make him chief,” according to the lawsuit.

In a statement, The Ethical Society of Police said the “lawsuit by Lt. Doyle and the allegations within exemplify systemic racism at its highest levels leveraged by corporate backers and their foot on the neck of progress.”

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