Civil Rights Group calls on Cook County Forest Preserves to Fire the Officer Caught on Tape During Hateful Incident

In a disturbing video released this week, a young woman in a Cook County forest preserve is repeatedly harassed and threatened by an older man for wearing a Puerto Rico t-shirt - while a park police officer watches silently without intervening.  The harasser was later arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct, and officials with the Cook County Forest Preserve District said that the officer involved has been assigned to desk duty while they investigate the incident.

Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, a group of attorneys and advocates working to secure racial equity and fight hate crime since 1969, issued the following statement:

”The footage captured by this 24-year-old woman, who acted calmly and courageously in the face of naked aggression and racial hatred, ought to ring alarm bells for every law enforcement agency in Illinois. In the video, a uniformed police officer standing only feet away does not respond or react despite the woman’s explicit call for help on at least four recorded occasions as an intoxicated man yells, curses, and points at her threateningly for wearing a ‘Puerto Rico’ t-shirt.

This is a clear-cut case of hate-motivated aggression that could have easily led to violence. It is disgraceful that an officer charged with public safety refused to respond or intervene, placing the woman in further danger, and that it took a viral video and media inquiries to spur an institutional response.

From years of experience educating and prosecuting hate crime cases, we know that the best way to prevent hate crimes is for local institutions to take a clear stand against intolerance. We call on the Cook County Forest Preserve District to swiftly terminate this officer’s employment, facilitate a training for their staff about implicit bias and hate crime, and set forth to the public their accountability procedures for officer misconduct. Our organization stands ready to assist the Forest Preserve District police with any resources they may need to learn from this disturbing incident. It is not too late to use this outrage as a teaching moment to ensure that all visitors to the parks are protected from harassment and hate.”