A police lieutenant who is white, gay and recently won a $10.25 million discrimination lawsuit against his department says he no longer wants to lead its diversity and inclusion unit. The reason? Racism, he says. "The dog whispers of a gay, white guy being unable to lead Diversity and Inclusion were loud and clear," Lt. Keith Wildhaber wrote Friday on Facebook, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Systemic racism is alive and well." Wildhaber was named commander of the new St. Louis County police unit in late 2019, weeks after winning his discrimination lawsuit. But the Ethical Society of Police—a group that represents minority officers and battles racial discrimination—opposed his appointment, saying he wasn't fit for the job.
"The head of the Diversity and Inclusion Unit should have a strong history of being a champion for racial diversity, inclusion, [and] equity," they wrote in a St. Louis American op-ed, adding that the lack of a selection process "signals to us the lack of sincerity" in the department's stated goals of diversity and inclusion. But Wildhaber called their concerns "background noise" and said he's "not battling ESOP and the activists for another 3 years." ESOP's president, Sgt. Heather Taylor, said their only concern is qualifications: "Whomever they put in that job—he can be another openly gay, white male, and if he's qualified, do the job," she tells KSDK. "Yes, that's great." (Read about Wildhaber's legal victory, which was initially $19 million, or his own complaints against the department.)