City of Clayton mayor releases letter responding to investigation of police actions during IHOP incident
Mayor Harold Sanger released a letter to the Clayton community Sept. 29 following the conclusion of the investigation into the July 2018 incident during which 10 black Washington University students were falsely accused of dining and dashing at IHOP.
In the letter, Sanger explained the findings of the independent investigation into the situation launched by the mayor’s office and the Board of Aldermen. In the report, Sanger outlined his belief that the police officers involved acted properly, citing that some of the students were carrying IHOP to-go bags, were walking from the general area of the restaurant and were the only visible people on the street.
“Given all these circumstances, the investigation found that initiating contact with this group was in keeping with policies and procedures,” Sanger wrote in the letter.
Even though Sanger found that the police acted in accordance with the departmental procedures, he acknowledged a gap between police forces and the communities they serve across the nation.
“The public reaction to this incident tells us that this gap is as real and persistent right here in Clayton as it is anywhere else, and for our part in the city of Clayton we are committed to finding a positive way forward together,” Sanger wrote.
The investigation was completed by 21st Century Policing Solutions, an organization comprised of police chiefs, academics and lawyers who investigate police departments and look for ways to increase the quality of relationship between police and the communities they serve.
According to Chancellor Mark Wrighton, Washington University does not currently have access to the full report; however, he still believes that there is a difference in opinion on the matter. The University will meet with Sanger later in the week to further discuss the incident and the letter of response.
“From what I understand at this point, there remains strongly differing perspectives on what occurred the evening of July 7,” Wrighton wrote in a statement to Student Life. “I will share this directly with Mayor Sanger when I meet with him later in the week.”
Wrighton agrees with Sanger that the city still has a lot of work to do in addressing the issue of racial tensions between law enforcement and the communities.
“Racial tension is an extremely serious challenge, especially when it comes to the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” Wrighton wrote. “We are committed to being a constructive partner in addressing these issues.”
Student Union President and senior Grace Egbo agrees with Wrighton.
“Despite even the investigation, the students involved can never be denied on how they felt that night,” Egbo said. “I wouldn’t want to try to use an investigation to invalidate their feelings but just more acknowledging the fact that this is how they felt and this is what Clayton and St. Louis should be doing better as a whole.”
Egbo believes that the upcoming voter registration event Oct. 10 hosted by the Danforth Center for Religion and Politics—where Sanger will be present—will be a good opportunity for students to voice their concerns to him.
“I think that would be a great opportunity for students to talk with him about, yes, this is how the report is, but this is how I feel as a human being and I think this is what you all should be doing to ensure that we feel safe in the St. Louis community but also that you guys give us the respect that everyone deserves in terms of procedure,” Egbo said.