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Oak Park pulls 'Guide to the Suspicious' from village website

Following request by police chief, trustees

August 13th, 2020 6:02 PM

By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

The Oak Park Police Department's "Guide to the Suspicious" was removed from the village of Oak Park website this week following criticism that the guide encouraged members of the community to engage in racial profiling. Oak Park Police Chief LaDon Reynolds requested the guide be taken down for further review in a memo sent Aug. 11 to Village Manager Cara Pavlicek.

"In light of the local and nation conversations on police reform, we recognize the potential for this information to be misinterpreted to the detriment of some of our citizenry," Reynolds wrote in the memo.

In an email sent that same day to Reynolds and Pavlicek, Trustee Dan Moroney requested the chief reevaluate the guide and the message it sends to the community. Moroney also copied the village board members on the email.

"It seems that there is room to reduce the instances of people calling the police for erroneous reasons," Moroney's email reads.

Moroney wrote that the "Guide to the Suspicious" exemplified the mantra that "the citizens are the eyes and ears of the community" and directs the community to call the police on people they believe look or act suspiciously.

"Residents are calling the cops disproportionately on Black residents for actions that might be 100 percent within the law," Moroney told Wednesday Journal.

Reynolds' and Moroney's requests to remove the guide occurred almost simultaneously, which Pavlicek called a "coincidence" during an interview with Wednesday Journal.

The guide was taken down just a week after the village of Oak Park hosted two "police listening sessions," during which citizens shared their experiences with police.

"When it's the right thing to do, things happen very quickly," said Trustee Deno Andrews, who seconded Moroney's request in an emailed reply.

 The two listening sessions are part of a larger effort to address systemic racism in the community.

"I think as a result of the listening sessions, some of the overwhelming feedback was that people call the police in matters that just aren't police matters," said Andrews.

Following the sessions, Moroney expressed a desire to reevaluate the guide in an interview with Wednesday Journal.

Pavlicek said removing the guide was an "appropriate action to take."

"I think it's absolutely appropriate sometimes that we put a fresh set of eyes on something and say, 'Wow, this might not be the right communication anymore," Pavlicek said.

The guide's removal marks an initial response to concerns about policing in Oak Park and across the county. There will be additional meetings and reviews of department policies, said Pavlicek.

She said village staff will present its review of the Citizen Police Oversight Committee, as well as the request for proposal to conduct an audit of the police department. Members of the community activist group Freedom to Thrive Oak Park may make an appearance before the village board to answer questions about the group's policing report.

"I think the chief also needs to give an update on where he is in regards to the update to policies and procedures," said Pavlicek.

While Moroney is on board with making changes to police policies to address racism, he does not believe in defunding the Oak Park Police Department.

"I have no interest in abolishing the police; I have no interest in vilifying the police," Moroney said.

Moroney views Oak Park police officers as members of the community committed to serve.  "I will treat them with respect as partners in creating a better community."

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