North Chicago brochure criticized as racially offensive

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the brochure, given to participants in the North Chicago Citizen Police Academy last week, features a smiling black man handcuffed in an orange prison jumpsuit, with another portrayed as bug-eyed and slack-jawed in a mug shot.

There is also a page with a picture of comedian Dave Chappelle appearing as Tyrone Biggums, the stumbling junkie character he created for his Comedy Central show.

Lake County NAACP president Jennifer Witherspoon said the handout reinforces “every negative stereotype blacks as a people have been fighting against.”

Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim calls the handout “incredibly disturbing.”

The brochure’s cover features Nerheim opposite Tom Cruise as a military defense attorney from the film “A Few Good Men.” The brochure also has pictures of television TV cop Barney Fife, Judge Judy and Lindsay Lohan, big-bellied white police officers and acquitted murder defendant Casey Anthony.

“Unprofessional is probably the nicest way to put it,” Nerheim said. “It was obviously done without my knowledge and consent. I definitely see how it could be offensive to people. It’s not something that should be coming out of the police department.”

Nerheim said he called North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham about the handout.

Rockingham said the two academy participants he talked to about the circular were split, with one saying they didn’t find it offensive, the other saying it could be taken the wrong way.

North Chicago Police Chief James Jackson is calling the handout an ill-considered attempt at humor.

“We should have caught it,” said Jackson.

However, local activist Ralph Peterson says the brochure raises “another red flag” on the North Chicago police.

“It’s more bad judgment. For officers to pass out a pamphlet like this screams a need for sensitivity and that this department is not capable of policing the black community,” he said, pointing to a police brutality case that has the department snared in a federal wrongful-death lawsuit.

Academy student Paula Carballido of North Chicago said an officer explained the images were taken from movies and TV and were not meant to offend. She said the course, which offers an in-depth view of law enforcement procedures, was informative and “respectful.”

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