Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. is playing a dangerous game.
Caught trying to fix a parking ticket for a friend, he now is claiming that he and the pal are victims of racial bias by the cop who issued the ticket and by the inspector general who has accused him of fixing the ticket.
Here’s what we think: Arroyo tried to fix the ticket. As the Chicago Way goes, it’s not the worst of offenses. It was common once and maybe still is.
We believe Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard. He had no reason that we can see to make up this accusation, and he has a reputation for integrity. That’s why the County Board hired him 11 years ago.
But if Arroyo really wants to investigate the investigator — if he really wants to accuse the cop and Blanchard of racial bias and call witnesses and get Blanchard fired — we say have at it.
On one condition.
If an impartial investigation fails to find that Blanchard or the cop are guilty of bias, Arroyo himself will immediately resign. He will quit the county board and crawl into whatever hole people should go when they throw around false charges of racism and bias.
Because here’s the bigger issue. Our country is awash with racism, the real thing. Our president wallows in it. People at his rallies chant “Send her back” about an immigrant congresswoman. And his poll numbers just go up.
Given all the real racism, the last thing we need is the manufactured stuff — people making it up. It obscures the truth about the real thing. It gives bigots shelter. It diminishes the credibility of the charge even when it’s justified.
The facts of this case are not complicated.
In Schiller Woods last fall, a white forest preserve cop — and a Latino trainee — issued a $250 ticket to a friend of Arroyo’s, 36th Ward Supt. Luis Pena, for parking in a handicapped spot.
Arroyo got wind of this and contacted a “high-ranking” forest preserve official about voiding the ticket, according to a report by Blanchard. Arroyo also asked that the cop be sent to his office for questioning. The officer, the commissioner reportedly said, “displayed a poor attitude.”
Let’s stop and consider that: A member of the county board, which has oversight over the forest preserves, calls in a cop who gave a pal a ticket to give him a dressing down.
That, in and of itself, is obnoxious. No individual cop should be forced to answer to an individual county commissioner. The Forest Preserve police chief, Kelvin Pope, who stepped down last week in the wake of Blanchard’s report, should have told Arroyo to take a hike.
When Blanchard questioned Arroyo about this, the commissioner said, gee whiz, he wasn’t trying to fix a ticket. He just wanted to “address problems between minority and law enforcement communities” and go over the procedure for challenging the ticket.
This explanation, the inspector general wrote, “strained credulity.”
Yes. To put it politely.
And not just because the procedure for challenging the ticket was written on the back of the ticket.
At this point, Arroyo should have apologized. Everybody would have moved on. He could have fudged the apology, maybe throwing in something about a “misunderstanding.” Nobody would have cared.
But instead this week, Arroyo took a page from the playbook of Donald Trump — the best defense is to lash out on offense, no matter how full of holes your story might be.
And so Arroyo now says he was troubled all along about how forest preserve cops treat Latinos and he suspected the worst. Months before his friend was ticketed, he pointed out, a white cop had failed to come to the defense of a woman in Caldwell Woods who was being harassed for wearing a Puerto Rican flag shirt.
This is weak stuff. It’s made all the weaker by the fact that Arroyo, in his original interview with Blanchard, reportedly “denied” that racism was a factor in his friend getting ticketed.
But sure, commissioner, investigate the investigator.
And if the facts show that racial bias “played a role” in Blanchard’s report, as you say, the county should fire him.
And if the facts don’t, you quit.
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