ST. LOUIS • Two police majors who sued the department alleging that they were discriminated against while seeking a promotion to the highest rank below the chief were recently given the promotions they were seeking.
Michael Caruso and Rochelle Jones were promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel effective immediately last week. Their salaries are expected to increase to about $94,200 from about $89,500.
The number of lieutenant colonels in the department was reduced from five to four under former Chief Sam Dotson, who unexpectedly retired when a new mayor took office in April. Since Dotson’s departure, a retirement had taken that number down to three. The promotions of Caruso and Jones boost the number of lieutenant colonels in the department to five — including Interim Chief Lawrence O’Toole.
Dotson had promoted Ronnie Robinson, who is black, to the rank in September 2015. Caruso then filed a lawsuit alleging he was passed over for it because he is white; Jones filed a lawsuit alleging she didn’t get it because she is a woman.
Caruso recently settled his lawsuit in federal court for $300,000 plus an adjustment to his pension that would allow contributions to be made as if he had been promoted. Jones’ lawsuit is pending. She is the first black woman to attain the rank in the department.
Attorneys from Pleban & Petruska Law represented the officers.
“The promotion doesn’t impact our lawsuit at all, but it tends to prove our point,” said Jones’ attorney, J.C. Pleban. “Both deserved to be promoted and ultimately got promoted.”
O’Toole also made several other promotions: Mary Warnecke to the rank of major; Perri Johnson and Michael Mueller to the rank of captain; and Joseph McCloskey and Amy Parker-Stayton to the rank of lieutenant.
The ultimate promotion in the department rests in Mayor Lyda Krewson’s hands. She will be the city’s first mayor to appoint a police chief, as the decision previously fell to a now-defunct board of police commissioners appointed by the governor. They were required to choose from internal candidates.
Krewson is conducting a national search for a replacement for the first time in the department’s history, but has said she has not ruled out internal candidates. O’Toole has said he wants to become the department’s next chief. Krewson has said she hopes to name a permanent chief by the end of this year.