St. Louis, Missouri police sergeant Heather Taylor did not hesitate to answer “yes” when CBS News reporter Jeff Pegues asked her if she believed there were white supremacists on the police force.
Taylor’s answer comes after a damning exposé by the Plain View Project, a database of thousands of racist, violent and otherwise derogatory social media posts from current and former law enforcement officers throughout the country.
Four-hundred and sixteen of the posts in the database are affiliated with the St. Louis police department, and many include racist and white-supremacist rhetoric:
“Have you seen some of the Facebook posts of some of our suspended officers right now?” Taylor responded when Pegues commented on how quickly she answered. “Yes.”
Taylor, a Black woman, is the president of the Ethical Society of Police, a predominantly Black union that works to fight racial discrimination in law enforcement.
Though police departments in major cities throughout the country have told CBS that they have implicit bias training, the reality seems to be that it is ineffective and optional.
After Michael Brown’s death and subsequent protests in 2014, the St. Louis Metro Police Department told CBS in a survey that yearly implicit bias training was mandatory for officers.
But Lt. Cheryl Orange, another officer Pegues interviewed from the department said she did not recall implicit bias training being mandatory. Taylor said the training is optional and that it is “pretty obvious” that it is ineffective.
St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards insisted to Pegues that the training was mandatory, but also said he is “not surprised” that Taylor said she believes there are white supremacists on the force. He added that it is his responsibility to root those people out.
Edwards said the number of incidents of excessive force has gone down, and he credits the improvement to new training, though he acknowledges there is a long way to go before Black mothers do not have to worry that a police encounter involving their sons may very well end in death.
Taylor said she believes law enforcement applicants should be better screened and that officers should break down what is dubbed “The Blue Wall of Silence” — an unspoken system in which police officers cover up internal wrongdoing.
As far as breaking the wall herself, Taylor told CBS she does not care about backlash.
“When you know you’re doin’ right you can hold your head up …” she said. “I don’t think that all of our department is bad … But … instead of complaining about me, how about you do something to change the culture that you know exists?”