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There’s A New Sheriff In Town

January 2, 2017 Featured, Politics/Policy No Comments

I moved to St. Louis over 26 years ago, in that time there has only been one sheriff: James Murphy.  When I ran for the Board of Alderman in 2005 Murphy was working the poll for the incumbent on the day of the primary — he’s as old guard South St. Louis Democrat as they come.

From September 2010:

Two deputies on Friday won a lawsuit against St. Louis Sheriff James Murphy that claimed a racially hostile work environment but said afterward the sheriff still doesn’t understand the systematic problems that led them to sue.

A jury awarded William “Patrick” Hill and Jacques Hughes a combined $850,000 in actual and punitive damages, deciding Murphy was liable for a weak response when a supervisor in his department hung a noose in the courthouse in 2006.

To award damages, the jury had to decide whether Murphy was liable because his conduct was either evil in motive or recklessly indifferent. (Post-Dispatch)

Sheriff Vernon Betts
Sheriff Vernon Betts

Former sheriff’s deputy Vernon Betts, elected in November, challenged Murphy in 2012:

Murphy, who comes from an influential family in city politics, narrowly defeated Vernon Betts in the 2012 Democratic primary. Murphy had fired Betts, a former sheriff’s deputy, for actively campaigning for the office—something that Murphy had banned for employees. 

Murphy later lifted the ban, which has kept his employees from challenging him at the ballot box.  (Post-Dispatch)

Murphy didn’t run for another term, a crowded field, including Betts, ran in the August 2016 Democratic primary.  Swearing in Vernon Betts, an African-American, as sheriff, is a huge step in the right direction.

It also reminds me of a favorite movie: Blazing Saddles.

Brooks has never been known for his subtlety, and Blazing Saddles is no exception. Gone are the earnest, long-winded speeches about racial harmony that characterized movies like The Defiant Ones; instead, the film, co-written by Richard Pryor, tackles race and racism head-on and with humor. (It’s so un-PC that Brooks told Jimmy Kimmel in 2012 he wouldn’t be able to make the film today.) (NPR)

Warning, the N-word is spoken three times in the following clip.

Hopefully Sheriff Betts will get a better reception than Black Bart did.

— Steve Patterson


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