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IPRA chief weighs in on cop who allegedly called Obama n-word

A new report from the city's inspector general says millions of dollars is being wasted on police overtime. | File photo

After recommending that a Chicago police officer be fired for using the n-word to refer to President Barack Obama, Sharon Fairley — head of the Independent Police Review Authority — said she wanted to meet personally with officers who allegedly heard the slur, but did not ‘fess up.

Fairley last month recommended firing the officer who made the derogatory remark when Obama was in town last October to attend a Chicago Bulls game and the officers were figuring out who would work on his detail.

A male fellow officer who heard the slur — and was offended — filed a complaint.

“During this investigation, it appears that several officers interviewed were not as forthcoming as they should be,” Fairley wrote in an “advisory letter” sent to Supt. Eddie Johnson May 12 that was posted on IPRA’s website Tuesday night.

The slur was made inside a tactical unit office at the 12th District police station in the Little Italy neighborhood, according to IPRA spokeswoman Mia Sissac, who added that the officer admitted to investigators that he made the slur.

In her letter, Fairley wrote: “Several department members were present when the remark was uttered, and reacted in such a way to indicate that they overheard the remark. Moreover, when interviewed, the department member who made the remark identified several other officers who had witnessed the incident. However, ten out of twelve District 12 Department members [nine officers and one sergeant], when interviewed by IPRA about the incident claimed that they were either not present when the remark was uttered or did not hear the remark. This is troubling,” she wrote.

“I believe that the department should bring these individuals together to remind them of their duty to be truthful. In addition, I would like to personally address these individuals about this incident and the concerns that I have about their response to IPRA investigators.”

Sharon Fairley. | AP
Sharon Fairley, chief administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority for the city of Chicago. | M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Fairley recommended the police department add language to the section of the rules and regulations outlining standards of conduct that specifically prohibits “discrimination on the basis of race, or any other improper factors.”

“Although the department’s Human Rights and Human Resources Policy … explicitly prohibits department members from exhibiting racial bias, this issue is sufficiently important to warrant inclusion in the Standards of Conduct.”

The complaining officer also provided IPRA with a photograph of a bulletin board at the District 12 station that showed a childish drawing of President Barack Obama. In her letter, Fairley noted that no officers were “willing or able” to say where it came from.

“The complainant found the drawing offensive, as do I,” she wrote.

Fairley suggested the police department examine its policies regarding what material is acceptable for posting “to ensure that this type of offensive material is deemed impermissible.”

She added: “Moreover, because the posting of this artwork was allowed, it implies that the command staff at the 12th District receive Equal Opportunity Employment, Human Rights, or other relevant Diversity training as soon as possible.”

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi was not immediately available for comment.

Sissac did not know whether the officer accused of the slur was on active duty or had been assigned to desk duty.

When Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Fairley, a former federal prosecutor, in December, he said the move was intended to restore public confidence in the disciplinary process for police officers. Recently, though, Emanuel has said he plans to disband IPRA, which has been criticized for slow investigations that rarely lead to discipline.