By RACHEL LIPPMANN • NOV 14, 2019
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is keeping his promise to bring leadership change to the police department.
Page on Thursday announced that he had nominated Dr. Laurie Punch, a trauma surgeon, and Thomasina Hassler, a longtime educator, to the Board of Police Commissioners, which oversees the police department. He had two other nominees approved by the county council last week.
“Dr. Punch and Professor Hassler will make a great addition to the police board as we continue this critical transition period,” Page said in a statement. “Change in the police department begins at the top and, in St. Louis County, that is the police board. We will continue making changes in a thoughtful manner to ensure a welcoming work environment for our police employees while providing the high-quality police services that keep our residents safe.”
Neither Punch nor Hassler was immediately available for comment. If confirmed, Punch will replace Lawrence Wooten, a pastor at Williams Temple Church of God in Christ, who’s been serving on a term that expired in February 2017. Hassler would replace Art Johnson, the former president and CEO at AAA. Johnson’s term expired earlier this month.
Punch and Hassler would also join Michelle Schwerin, an attorney at Capes Sokol, to make up a majority-female board. The board previously had only one woman.
The turnover at the police board began last month, after a St. Louis County jury awarded a police sergeant nearly $20 million in a discrimination case. The jury found that the department had refused to promote Sgt. Keith Wildhaber because he is gay, and then retaliated against him when he complained.
Page released a statement a few days after the verdict promising to nominate new commissioners. The then-chairman of the board, former FBI agent Roland Corvington, quit a few days later. He has since been replaced, as has Laurie Westfall, the widow of former St. Louis County Executive Buzz Westfall.