African American police protest North Chicago presentation
By Judy Masterson firstname.lastname@example.org February 25, 2013 10:14PM
Updated: March 27, 2013 6:28AM
Four North Chicago veteran police officers stood quietly outside a meeting of the North Chicago City Council on Monday to protest a racially insensitive PowerPoint presentation recently used during a Citizen Police Academy session. Officer Ron Montgomery said the presentation, which included negative depictions of African Americans — crack addict, convict and bug-eyed buffoon — “set us back 60 years.”
But the officers, all black, who have more than 90 years of policing experience between them, said they were even more offended by a statement made by their police chief, who said the document was the work of a black officer.
Lt. Curtis Brame said the “blanket statement” called into question the character and judgment of all African American officers on the force. “We have longevity, we have respect in this community,” Brame said. “I got calls asking if I had anything to do with it. No, I didn’t. I’m sure other officers got calls, too.”
The officers, who refused to publicly address the council, are pressing for accountability in the matter. The presentation, which was intended to illustrate trial procedures, was shown during a Feb. 14 session of the new Citizen Police Academy. It contained images that included the comedian Dave Chappelle’s junkie character, Tyrone Biggums, and a black man in orange prison jumpsuit surrounded by four white guards. It also included photos of Lindsay Lohan, Judge Judy and bumbling TV cop Barney Fife.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say, ‘Look, the city already has racial problems, why add to it?’ — knowing good and well that this was something that would fuel the fire,” Montgomery said.
North Chicago Police Chief James Jackson said that he assigned several officers to prepare materials for the academy and that a sergeant had been assigned to oversee their activity. He said the trial procedures presentation was prepared and shown without his permission.
“The content of this demonstration was unprofessional and it displayed a lack of good judgment by the participating officers,” Jackson told the council. “At no time was there any intent to humiliate or discredit any persons or group. I take full responsibility for what may be deemed as crude or unprofessional behavior by my officers.”
But Jackson’s statement did not satisfy certain members of the council, or the audience. Mayor candidates including 7th Ward Alderman Charles January and 3rd Ward Alderman Valerie DeVost and resident Anthony Coleman, called for action including a possible removal of the officers involved in the presentation, suspension of the academy until an investigation is completed, and dismissal of the chief.
Jackson has declined to name the officer or officers responsible for the document which the News-Sun received in handout form. “That’s why we have an investigation going,” he said after the council meeting. “We were told it was a black officer.”
Activist Ralph Peterson of Waukegan, whose family has filed a federal wrongful death suit against the department, publicly named officer Corey Marquardt, who was recently promoted to sergeant, as the man behind the handout. Fourth Ward Alderman Bobby Allen, who is also running for mayor, said that Jackson revealed to him in a conversation Monday, that Marquardt, who is white, had created the PowerPoint.
Allen said Jackson should be given time to investigate and that the officer(s) involved should apologize before the council.
“We have a lot of black officers who are really upset,” Allen said. “They’re here tonight because they’re standing up for what they believe in. There are great officers here. If there’s a bad one, get rid of them, I don’t care what color they are.”
Mayor Leon Rockingham acknowledged that the document “probably was inappropriate and to some degree offensive.”
“Our chief is working in the department to find out exactly what went on and who was involved and to make sure that person or those people get the training they need so this doesn’t happen again,” he said, adding that he would consider sensitivity training for the police and other city departments.