A white police officer in St. Louis has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the city and two Black city officials, claiming he was excluded from a promotion to police chief—a position that ended up going to another white cop.
Michael Sack filed the suit against the city of St. Louis, Mayor Tishaura Jones, and Interim Public Safety Director Daniel Isom in the Eastern District of Missouri federal court Monday, saying his “race was a determining factor, motivating factor, or played a part in the [city’s] decision to not promote him…even though he was qualified to be Commissioner/Chief.”
Sack wants financial compensation for loss in wages and benefits.
According to the lawsuit, Sack began working with the St. Louis Police Department 1994 and was “consistently promoted through the ranks,” eventually landing the spot as the lieutenant colonel—the department’s second in command—in 2019.
In September 2021, the police chief announced his plans to retire, and Sack submitted an application for the role. However, only he and one other officer, who was also white, met the role’s qualifications and passed a written test, he says. But Sack claims in his suit that Jones told them that she would not pick either one because she “only had two white male candidates to choose from and St. Louis is more diverse than white males.”
In March 2022, after learning he got a perfect score on the written test, Sack tried to schedule an interview with Isom, who, as public safety director, would choose the next chief. However, Sack claimed he never got an interview for the next phase in the application process.
The city then opened applications for police chief back up in May 2022 with lower minimum qualifications—a violation of its charter, the suit claims. In June 2022, when the former chief officially retired, Sack was appointed interim chief and led the department when a St. Louis public school graduate opened fire, killing a teacher and student.
“Sack was commended for his communication with the public on the day of the incident and over the days that followed,” according to the lawsuit, which also says Sack was asked to advise a class of Missouri State Police on how to handle active shooter situations.
Again, Sack says he put his hat in the ring for police chief but didn’t get the job. The lawsuit claims the city wanted a Black police commissioner, but had to settle for Robert Tracy—an outside white candidate—“when no African American candidate was left to select.” One of the finalists who was Black withdrew his application, and another allegedly declined the city’s offer, the lawsuit says.
Since being passed over for the top job, the lawsuit says Sack “has suffered and will continue to suffer lost income and a resulting loss in his retirement benefits because he was not promoted.” He has also allegedly experienced “mental anguish,” “humiliation,” and a “loss of enjoyment of life.”
Neither Jones nor Isom immediately returned The Daily Beast’s requests for comment Tuesday.