Mount Prospect mayoral candidate defends controversial police patch; opponents non-committal
One candidate for Mount Prospect mayor favors keeping the police department patch that has generated heated debate in the village board chambers in recent months, while his two opponents aren't committing to either keeping or redesigning the logo.
The patch features a "thin blue line" image that police leaders say honors officers who have died in the line of duty. Critics, however, say the imagery has been co-opted by white supremacists and other extremists.
Proponents and opponents of the patch have aired their views several times in village forums since last summer, when the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody sparked nationwide protests calling for racial justice,
Mayoral candidates William Grossi, Paul Hoefert and Colleen Saccotelli -- all current village trustees -- discussed the patch during a recent Daily Herald endorsement interview. They are running in the April 6 election to replace Mayor Arlene Juracek, who is not seeking another term.
Grossi said he stands staunchly behind the patch.
"I've made no secret of the fact that I am in favor of keeping this patch," he said, noting that a distant cousin was a police officer who was murdered. "We need to have the backs of our police officers."
Grossi said the black American flag with the blue line gained widespread usage in 2016, after five police officers were killed in Dallas. While it's since been seen during the clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and at the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, he said those events don't fairly represent the flag's meaning.
"We have a small minority of individuals that have absconded with the symbol, and to try to say that this is no longer valid, well, that just can't be," he said. "You are going to destroy any feelings within the police department that the community values them. It means something to them, and we have to take that into account."
Hoefert said he has proposed that Mount Prospect hire an independent third party to review all village symbols and logos and "maybe even go deeper than that."
"A lot of times, I don't think that we understand the impact that some of these symbols and logos (have) on other people and their viewpoints," he said. "Symbols can hurt. We have heard the hurt, I don't discount that."
However, Hoefert added that without more information, he's not ready to tell the police department to change its patch.
Saccotelli said she would see her role as mayor as involving more diverse voices on village boards and commissions, facilitating dialogue that includes all members of the community.
"I understand the perspectives on both sides of this issue and how they view the symbol differently," she said. "As a mayor it's up to me to think about what is best for the entire community, what is best for the police department to effectively do their jobs and carry out the community policing strategies that they have worked so hard on."
Saccotelli said she is open to a diversity audit such as the one conducted recently in Arlington Heights.
"I would like to see how that process unfolds and if it's a valuable tool for them, and to see if this is something that we should talk about as part of our strategic planning process in spring," she said.