The city of Bellefontaine Neighbors, Missouri is mostly black. Its police officers are 100 percent white. Community activists say their part of the city is a “Ferguson waiting to happen.”
News 4 Investigates, out of St. Louis, Missouri, revealed that police in Bellefontaine “had increased traffic cases 130 percent during the last two fiscal years, by far the biggest increase in St. Louis County.” Why? Because the cops would get reprimanded if they didn’t meet their ticketing quotas.
An increase in traffic stops for the sake of meeting an arbitrary quota angered community activists in Bellefontaine, who managed to attract sympathy from the U.S. Department of Justice.
In ensuing meetings among DOJ officials, Bellefontaine social justice activists, and the local cops, police agreed to diversity the department in a manner that is more reflective of the community it purports to serve.
In a public meeting this week, “Interim Police Chief Jeremy Ihler pledged a commitment to more community policing and a much stronger push to hire black officers for the all-white department,” News 4 reports.
Bellefontaine advocates for moral policing are encouraged by the department’s stated commitment to diversity, but reserve judgment until the force develops a better relationship with the community and hires its first black cop.
“He sounds committed,” community organizer Reverand Phillip Duvall begins cautiously, in an interview with News 4. Duvall notes, however, many residents in the community — especially young black men — feel the the police pay an undue and punitive amount of negative attention to them.
Ferguson and Bellefontaine “have duplicate demographics and they have similar behaviors,” Duvall tells News 4. “We pray there’s not another shooting. Because this department — and this community — will suffer greatly.”
“This is a Ferguson waiting to happen,” Duvall warns.
News 4 Investigates reached out to Ihler multiple times for comment about which steps he is pursuing to encourage the officers he leads to become more “responsive and inclusive.” As of press time, Ihler had not responded.
On Monday, News 4 plans to cover the story of an area police officer caught on camera using “the n-word to describe a black woman who had committed no crime.”
On its official website, the city of Bellefontaine Neighbors says it’s “just 20 minutes from the Gateway Arch and downtown Saint Louis.”
“With rich traditions, participatory government, strong moral values and great access to the metro highway network, Bellefontaine Neighbors provides an ideal environment for your family,” the site also says.
Watch community activists in Bellefontaine speak out against systemic racism in their local police force: