Officer fired over racial profiling claims returns to work

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A suburban St. Louis police officer has returned to duty about five years after he was fired over racial profiling allegations.

Patrick “Rick” Hayes, who resumed working for the St. Louis County Police Department in January, was fired in 2013 after nine officers told internal affairs investigators he’d ordered them to racially profile black people in and around shopping centers in the southern part of the county, the St. Louis Post-Dispatchreported .

Hayes has long said he was targeted by unsatisfied people after he was sent to restore lost discipline. A police board hearing his appeal voted in March 2016 to reinstate him and demote him to patrolman from lieutenant. But the department disobeyed its own police board and refused to let Hayes return to work. Hayes’ attorneys took the county to court, and at a hearing in January 2017, a judge ordered the department to abide by the police board’s decision and return Hayes to duty. The department waited almost another full year before returning him to the force.

Chief Jon Belmar said in a statement that although the department was abiding by the judge’s order, he believes his predecessor made the right call in firing Hayes. He said the department “does not take allegations of misconduct lightly” and “will continue to ensure that officers treat every member of our community with dignity and respect.”

The allegations against Hayes surfaced in December 2012 through anonymous letters signed by “The Lonewolf.” Ultimately, Sgt. Dan O’Neil outed himself as the letter writer.

O’Neil has sued the county claiming he was transferred to another district farther from his home, drug-tested and stripped of his take-home police car in retaliation for turning on his commander. He retired after 25 years of service on Dec. 1, weeks before Hayes returned to the force.

For now, Hayes is working as a patrolman. He declined to comment through his attorney, Neil Bruntrager, citing pending litigation. Hayes is seeking to be reinstated as a lieutenant and be given back pay. The county has argued that Hayes isn’t entitled to lost wages because he made money as a car salesman during his suspension.

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