Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Truth Still Unknown after NAACP Probe

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Truth Still Unknown after NAACP Probe

Article excerpt

THE REPORT of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which accuses former Police Chief Clarence Harmon of mistreating black officers, has one key failing, says co-author Preston Vanderford.

"We weren't able to prove or disprove the allegations," Vanderford said. "We had no way of confirming what was true and what wasn't true."

That's why, he added, the report calls for an outside agency to investigate the St. Louis Police Department. Since the NAACP's leaders include several allies of Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr., critics tout the report as no more than a political attack against Harmon. The former St. Louis police chief is to announce Sunday that he will challenge the mayor in next March's primary election. Harmon and Bosley are black. Harmon, who denies the allegations, is among those who allege that the NAACP report is an attempt to dissuade blacks from voting for him. Vanderford says he's "insulted" by such accusations but adds that he understands what's fanning the flames. The local NAACP president is Charles Mischeaux, a banker and Bosley ally who recently ended a four-year stint on the St. Louis Police Board. Mischeaux and Harmon often were at odds and continue to have a strong dislike of each other. Lloyd Jordan, a lawyer who recently stepped down as Bosley's chief of staff, is the local NAACP's first vice president. Comptroller Darlene Green, a Bosley ally, is the group's assistant treasurer. Vanderford, who headed the three-person panel that wrote the report, says none of the above notables had any influence or input on the report or its allegations. "I worked hard on this for a year," said Vanderford, the personnel director at the Post-Dispatch. Other panel members were from the St. Louis Fire Department: Deputy Chief Sherman George and Capt. James Morgan. The three worked on their own time, meeting about three times a week for about six months, Vanderford said. Mischeaux says the report supports allegations he has made for years. He says the target was the Police Department, not Harmon. The report, made public Thursday, restates almost identical allegations that the local NAACP made in two other press conferences during the last 15 months: in June 1995, when Morgan announced the investigation would be undertaken, and last November by Vanderford. At all three news conferences, the NAACP alleged that black officers were being disciplined more harshly than white officers found guilty of identical offenses. The civil rights organization said the department's promotion policies favored white officers. The group called in 1995, as now, for an outside government agency to investigate the department. Mischeaux long has been an outspoken critic of the testing and "cluster" method used to determine promotions, saying it favors white officers. …

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