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Discrimination lawsuit settlement with St. Louis police chief finalist includes forced retirement

KSDK-TV St. Louis 5/16/2022 Christine Byers (KSDK)
© Provided by KSDK-TV St. Louis

One of the only two finalists for St. Louis chief of police has settled a discrimination lawsuit with the city, which includes a forced retirement and withdrawal of his application for the top cop, according to sources familiar with the agreement.

The City of St. Louis will also pay Lt. Col. Lawrence O’Toole about $162,000, and he has withdrawn his application for police chief, released the city from any and all claims, waived his reemployment rights with the city and will not seek or accept any employment with the City of St. Louis, according to the sources.

O’Toole, who is white, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the city in 2020 alleging that he was passed over for chief in favor of John Hayden, who is Black. 

The lawsuit is requiring O’Toole to retire May 21, according to the sources.

That leaves only one man standing to replace Hayden: Lt. Col. Michael Sack.

It remains unclear when Hayden will retire and who will lead the department of about 1,100 officers.

Hayden filed paperwork earlier this month with the police pension board, citing his last day with the department as May 22. Hayden is refusing to answer questions from 5 On Your Side about it, and the mayor’s office said the date was only a formality to get his pension process started.

Meanwhile, O’Toole’s settlement includes $11,000 in Prop P money he did not get after filing his discrimination complaint, about $60,000 for emotional pain and suffering, about $65,000 for payroll adjustments or back pay that he would have gotten had he been named chief instead of Hayden and about $25,000 to cover attorney’s fees.

As part of the settlement, he will be drawing a pension on the chief's salary of $155,000 versus the $117,000 salary he was making as second-in-command, according to those sources.

O’Toole served as interim chief during most of 2017, and was criticized for his handling of the protests that followed the acquittal of former police officer Jason Stockley.

Four white police officers have been convicted of beating a Black undercover police officer who was posing as a protester that night. That officer, Detective Luther Hall, settled a lawsuit of his own with the city for $5 million.

O’Toole said police “owned tonight” at a news conference that night, which also included arrests of dozens of people at the protests including a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter.

He later asked federal authorities to review police conduct during the protests.

Also during his tenure as interim police chief, O’Toole characterized the shooting of a Black off-duty police officer as a “caught in the crossfire” situation, even though it involved a white police officer shooting him in the elbow – a career ending injury.

In his lawsuit, O’Toole alleged Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards told him, “If Jason Stockley didn’t happen you would be the police chief,” which O’Toole believes shows his race was “clearly a motivating factor” in Edwards’ decision not to promote him to chief.

He also accused Hayden of retaliating against him and “immediately changed the duties and responsibilities held by the plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit that was filed.

“The decision to change the duties and responsibilities was an effort to marginalize an attempt to force the resignation of the plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit.

He also alleged that he was not given a $6,000 pay increase from Proposition P, even though all of the other commanders did.

Hayden announced in September he would be retiring. He said then his last day would be at the end of February to mark his 35th anniversary with the department.

RELATED: St. Louis police chief postpones retirement

But that date came and went, and Hayden said in January he would remain on the force indefinitely as St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones continued her search for his replacement.

That move followed remarks Jones made about O'Toole and Sack, who are both white men.

Jones told 5 On Your Side’s news partners at the St. Louis American earlier this year: “I only had two white male candidates to choose from and St. Louis is more diverse than white males, our police department is more diverse—there were a lot of diverse candidates within the police department who were kicked out of the first round so I want to start over to find the right candidate.”

The terms of O'Toole's settlement agreement also mean he cannot sue the city alleging discrimination following Jones' remarks.

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