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Mo. public safety director resigns 6 months into job

Appointed amid fallout from the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, Missouri's public safety director announced plans to resign Wednesday


By Summer Ballentine
Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri's public safety director, appointed amid fallout from the fatal Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown, on Wednesday announced plans to resign only six months into the job.

Director Daniel Isom II in a statement issued by the governor's office confirmed plans to return to the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he previously taught at the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

In this Aug. 27, 2014 file photo, Dan Isom, right, speaks with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon after being named the director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety in St. Louis. (AP Image)
In this Aug. 27, 2014 file photo, Dan Isom, right, speaks with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon after being named the director of the Missouri Department of Public Safety in St. Louis. (AP Image)

"It has been a great honor to serve as the director of public safety during this important time," Isom said. "But after a long career in law enforcement I have found that my true passion is teaching and I'm eager to return to my students at UMSL."

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon appointed Isom, who is black, in August after Darren Wilson, a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, shot and killed Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old. Wilson resigned in November.

Nixon has been criticized for not having enough diversity in his Cabinet, which at that time included no black leaders. In a statement Wednesday, Nixon said Isom "has been a strong leader for the department" the last six months.

Isom, the former St. Louis police chief, started serving in the top public safety role on Sept. 1 but faced hurdles last month during his confirmation with the Senate. The primary concern was his role in a racial discrimination lawsuit during his time as police chief.

Lawmakers eventually voted overwhelmingly in favor of him.

A federal jury in 2013 awarded a white police sergeant $420,000 in punitive damages over his claim that he was unfairly denied a promotion because his superiors wanted a black female to help lead the city police academy. The jury levied $20,000 in damages against Isom for his responsibility as police chief over the actions of other department leaders.

Isom and other defendants have appealed.

Democratic Sen. Jamilah Nasheed of St. Louis, who issued a statement earlier Wednesday about Isom's resignation, backed him throughout the confirmation process, which she said "took a lot of heavy lifting to get him there, to say the least."

While praising Isom, she criticized Gov. Nixon.

"I sponsored Dr. Isom's nomination because I believe that he has the ability and experience to reform the justice system in the state of Missouri," Nasheed said in her written statement. "The governor needs to start taking responsibility for these needed reforms. This state needs leadership, and the governor is not showing that right now."

Isom's last day will be March 2.

Peter Lyskowski, deputy chief of staff in the governor's office, will serve as acting public safety director. He previously was deputy director for the state departments of Health and Senior Services and Labor and Industrial Relations.

Former Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Sokoloff, of Kennett in southeast Missouri, will join Andrea Spillars as a deputy director of public safety.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press

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