Mount Prospect officials unhappy to see 'thin blue line' patch debate in national spotlight

Mount Prospect officials are feeling the impact of a once-local controversy over the police department's uniform patch being thrust into the national spotlight through coverage on Fox News.

"The volume has definitely been cranked up," said village Trustee Augie Filippone, who has called for a redesign of the patch, "It's been kind of taken out of the process of a community conversation and placed it, unfortunately, on a national stage. I think there are reasonable concerns by residents."

Last week, police Chief John Koziol and officers Chris Berg and Lisa Schaps appeared on the "Fox and Friends" morning program to defend the patch. The patch features an outline of the state of Illinois and a star marking the village's location against the backdrop of a black-and-white American flag with the "thin blue line" as one of its stripes.

Police have said the thin blue line represents officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, but critics say the same imagery has been used by white nationalists and other extremist groups.

After Schaps' appearance on Fox News last week, Prospect High School requested that she be removed from her position as the school's resource officer. The department complied and she's been reassigned to investigations.

Mayor Paul Hoefert said Tuesday he also has concerns about the issue making it on to a national stage, adding that the Fox News appearances created "mistrust" in the community.

"It took a local issue and took it to a national platform," Hoefert said. "I don't think that we needed to do that."

Hoefert said he's received emails both for and against the patch, with some residents telling him they would be concerned now calling police for help.

"My answer to them is if you ever feel threatened, if you ever feel at risk, you need to call the police," he said. "We have a highly skilled and very professional police force, and if you ever feel at risk, call 911."

Village Manager Michael Cassady said the chief and officers did not violate any policies by going on Fox.

"We have a communications plan in our village," he said. "The comments made by our officers and chief were within the confines of that document."

"If it was CNN, would (the critics) have a problem with it?" Cassady added.

Asked if there was pressure from some trustees to take some action against Koziol or the police officers, Cassady answered "Yes," without elaborating.

However, Hoefert said no one on the village board has suggested personnel changes to him.

"My board members haven't come to me and said we need to replace the chief or the village manager," he said. "We hired Mike (Cassady) to do a job, to manage the administrative aspects of the village. He's doing that. Whether we agree with what he's done is a matter for discussion, I suppose. But at this point, he's doing his job as he sees fit. I don't step in. I told him this the day I got elected. 'I don't do your job.'"

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