Glencoe police, NAACP work to resolve racial discrimination case
The Rev .Michael James unfolds the ticket that has brought controversy to Glencoe, as George P. Mitchell, president of the the Illinois NAACP, looks on, at a Monday press conference about racial profiling, on the lawn of the Glencoe Village Hall. |Irv Le
Updated: August 20, 2012 11:05AM
GLENCOE — An Evanston man who claimed discrimination after being ticketed for riding his bicycle through a Glencoe construction zone, compared his situation Monday to that of the black youth shot down by a white security guard in a controversial Florida case.
“She was so aggressive that it really could have turned into a Trayvon Martin situation if I had not kept my cool,” the Rev. Michael James said.
Trayvon Martin was the 17-year-old allegedly shot to death Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman in Sanford.
Glencoe Chief of Public Safety Michael Volling seemed momentarily speechless after being told what James said.
“That’s an entirely different set of circumstances,” he said eventually.
The facts that everybody seems to agree upon is that June 30, a female Glencoe Public Safety officer wrote James a $25 ticket, and did not draw a gun or touch him.
But Martin referred to her repeatedly Monday as aggressive, as he held his second press conference of the month in front of Glencoe Village Hall to discuss the June 30 incident, and to threaten a federal lawsuit.
This time, he was accompanied by George P. Mitchell, president of the Illinois NAACP, who said he took the claim seriously, but soft-pedaled a racial profiling case.
“A lawsuit is a great distance from now,” Mitchell said after he and James met privately with Volling and Glencoe Village Manager Paul Harlow. “What we’re looking for is information.”
The information he referred to includes three years worth of tickets of bicycles and cars, and protocols Glencoe Public safety uses when writing them.
According to the Illinois Traffic Stop Study, available on the Internet, African-Americans accounted for about 6, 4 and 5 percent of total Glencoe traffic stops in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
African-American motorists, when stopped, got tickets about 34 percent of the time in 2009, 21 percent of the time in 2010 and 24 percent of the time in 2011. The rest of the time, they drove off with a verbal or written warning.
Caucasians got tickets about 35, 29 and 24 percent of the time in the same years, according to the state figures.
All Illinois police officers are required to list a “best guess” of a curbed driver’s race, since they’re not allowed to ask, and race is not on drivers’ licenses anymore.
In Glencoe, officers cannot “close out” a digital report on their squad car computers until all required information, including race, is entered, Volling said.
James’ incident took place within the northerly part of Sheridan Road, under water-main construction for about six weeks. Traffic is restricted to northbound-only for cars, between downtown Glencoe to Lake-Cook Road, and closed to bicycles.
Northbound bicyclists were only in violation of the law starting about a week before the incident, a change to make it safer despite the many scofflaws. Before then, bikes were allowed to travel north, just as cars are.
James maintains two white cyclists pedaled slowly southbound, unmolested, as he was being ticketed, and that later, he saw four cyclists head past the same officer northbound.
“That is why this is a clear case of racial profiling,” he said Monday.
Wrong-way drivers and bicyclists seem to continue to be a problem in the construction zone. More bicyclists and motorists were ticketed last week, and one motorist was accused July 10 of aiming his vehicle at a Glencoe Public Works employee, though that worker opted not to sign a complaint.
James, Mitchell and Volling all said their Monday meeting was cordial and respectful.
“We were pleased to sit down and talk with the Reverend Doctor (James has a doctorate) and the NAACP president,” Volling said. “They had the opportunity to express their concerns, and we’ll meet again (July 25). In the meantime, we were happy to agree to provide the information requested.
“I can tell you that we take his concerns very seriously,” he added. “We’ll provide all the statistics that he’s asked for.”
Mitchell said, “Normally something like this is not a big (deal), except when a citizen feels abused. And this citizen feels abused.”
He said James’ version of the incident “gives the appearance of discrimination.
“The issue is not the ticket. It’s the treatment of the individual.”
James maintained he was “humble and polite” but the officer was “out for blood. She tried to provoke me.”
He said he wanted “to take this as far as possible” to see her “perjure herself in court.”
He was “treated like a criminal,” he said.
“I will never ride a bicycle in Glencoe again.”