Stung by recent claims that Evergreen Park Police traffic stops may be guided by racial profiling, Mayor James Sexton came out swinging at Monday night’s village board meeting.
With the words “…and justice for all” still echoing in council chambers after the Pledge of Allegiance, Sexton immediately began counter-punching, defending his administration and accusing the downtown news media of being interested more in fantasy than fact.
“I’m not going to let a couple of reporters tarnish the reputation of our police,” Sexton said, referring to a recent analysis of traffic-stop data conducted by the Better Government Association FOX 32 News.
Read Full Story: Over 70 Percent of Evergreen Park Traffic Stops Involve Minorities
Sexton ripped the BGA/FOX 32 News analysis as severely flawed. “There’s an old saying: ‘Figures lie and liars figure.’ You can get statistics to say anything you want,” he said.
“Our police do a great job 24 hours a day,” the mayor added. “You know, two weeks ago we had our firefighters in here to show our appreciation. Looking directly at Police Chief Michael Saunders, he added, “Mike, maybe we ought to have a ‘police night’ (at an upcoming village board meeting),” with several trustees nodding their heads in agreement.
“Every week I see the commendations our officers receive for the good work they do,” Sexton continued as he waved a sheaf of commendation papers at the audience of several dozen. “We help the police in Chicago, in Oak Lawn and elsewhere. I would read these to you at the village board meetings, but there are so many that I can’t, in the interest of time.”
Police Chief Adds His Thoughts
After the meeting, Saunders offered several simple points to back the mayor’s statements and refute the BGA/FOX 32 News analysis.
He questioned whether the estimate of minority drivers in the village is accurate, implying it may be higher than estimated.
Saunders added that the village is surrounded on three sides by Chicago neighborhoods with a similar share of non-white motorists. Yet the racial/ethnic gap that the BGA and FOX 32 News found so troubling in Evergreen Park (63 percent minority drivers versus 72 percent tickets to minority drivers) is equivalent to the gap found in an analysis of Chicago’s traffic-stop data, but nothing was said about the city.
The chief observed anecdotally that Chicago residents may be less inclined to be aware of and obey traffic laws, since Chicago Police make so many fewer traffic stops.
According to the Illinois Traffic Stop Study, in 2011 Chicago Police made seven times more traffic stops than their counterparts in Evergreen Park; yet Chicago’s population is roughly 100 times larger.
Saunders chided the individuals making the accusations of racial profiling for complaining to the BGA and FOX 32, but not to the village police department. He said those uncomfortable making a complaint with the Evergreen Park Police could make a complaint with the Public Integrity Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney's Office. “I can’t and won’t interrogate my officers based upon a news media story.”
“I’ve got officers on the street and they make a difference,” Saunders concluded.