Black Officers Treated Unfairly, Group Argues

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Mask and Eric Krol Daily Herald Staff Writers

A community activist group and at least one police officer are charging that the Elgin police department has a double standard when it comes to issues concerning minority officers.

And they say City Manager Richard Helwig is the man to solve the problem.

The group of minority residents and Sgt. Henry Smith are questioning the city's practices of hiring and firing officers. They also argue that the department and city hall need more minorities in management.

"Helwig is going to have to make a directive," said Michael McCall, spokesman for the group. "He's going to have to get the chief to clean up that police department and make the human resources director do what is right."

Helwig said he's been at the city only two years and that changes are coming.

"I certainly understand their cause and support their cause for a city government that reflects their community," he said. Prior to coming to Elgin he worked in Dayton, Ohio, for 21 years where minorities make up 40 percent of the population.

"I came here and saw several things we can do to make a difference in that area, and we will, over time."

Helwig said that he plans to institute a cultural diversity program throughout city government. Thus far, it has only been tried in the police department.

Even though cultural sensitivity training has hit the department, the citizens group argues that minority officers are treated differently when it comes to disciplinary action.

"When white officers are 'talked' to (about misconduct), they are sometimes given an opportunity to resign, while minority officers are fired and that stigma follows them wherever they go," McCall said.

In particular, McCall cites officer Pamela Mason, who was fired last month, and two other black officers who were fired during their 18-month probationary periods.

But police Chief Charles Gruber says that white and minority officers are treated equally when disciplined. He said any officer is given the opportunity to resign when facing disciplinary action. …