North Chicago Police Brochure Racism? Black Stereotypes Stir Controversy

Suburb's Bizarre, Racially Problematic Police Brochure Stirs Controversy

An official handout recently distributed by a Chicago suburb was intended to simply educate "citizen police" about trial procedures.

Instead, the brochure given to participants in North Chicago's new Citizen Police Academy 10-week course has many community members up in arms over imagery -- such as Dave Chappelle in character as junkie Tyrone Biggums and a black man looking slack-jawed in a mugshot -- that reinforces negative stereotypes of African Americans, area civil rights activists told the Chicago Sun-Times.

According to the Sun-Times, which reported Monday on the bizarre handouts, village officials say the material was created by a police officer, who is black, and were not authorized by the department as a whole. It has been removed from the course's curriculum and the officer at the head of the course apologized for the incident.

(Visit the Sun-Times to view images from the controversial brochure.)

But activists say the apparent slip-up is part of a larger problem. The North Chicago Police Department has been embroiled in a brutality scandal surrounding the 2011 beating death of Darrin Hanna, which was reclassified as a homicide last month. Hanna was African American and died several days after police used a stun gun on him multiple times and arrested him while responding on a domestic battery call. Michael Newsome, the department's former police chief, resigned amid the scandal.

Between 2005 and 2011, North Chicago -- a largely lower-income suburb with a high black population -- was the subject of 10 excessive-force lawsuits including one from Hanna's family. The suburb in 2007 worked with a local NAACP chapter to address racial relations in the city following two separate beatings of young black men.

North Chicago's Citizen Police Academy is a weekly program that offers "an in-depth view into various areas of law enforcement" with the goal of establishing a safer community by fostering "a better understanding, communication and partnership between the citizens and the police through education."

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