Meeks Case a Political Hot Potato

Fran Spielman and Frank Main, Chicago Sun-Times, Aug. 18

A Calumet District police sergeant accused of racial profiling by the Rev. James Meeks has told investigators he drew his gun and used profanity because he was intimidated when Meeks and a pair of bodyguards who pulled up in a tail car got out of their cars at the same time.

“He had two men behind him, another one in front of him and a fourth [driver] in the car,” said a high-ranking police official familiar with the sergeant’s version of events. “He was frightened. I would have done exactly the same thing.”

Some police brass have concluded the sergeant did nothing wrong, but an internal investigation continues, creating a political dilemma for Supt. Phil Cline and City Hall.

If the 10-year veteran sergeant is exonerated, it could be viewed in the black community as a whitewash. That could create “just the kind of wedge issue” that Meeks’ political patron, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), needs to launch a potential campaign for mayor, City Hall sources said.

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The sergeant tells a different story, according to sources. He has told police brass that he pulled over the car carrying Meeks, his wife and son after the minister’s driver pulled around the squad car and went through a stop sign.

Meeks, along with a pair of bodyguards who pulled up in a tail car, got out of their vehicles and the bodyguards went “behind the squad car,” the sergeant has said. The sergeant drew his weapon and issued a profanity-laced directive to all three men to return to their vehicles.

“He didn’t wave his gun. But he did use profanity, and he had every right to use it,” said the high-level police official. “He told [Meeks], ‘I don’t care who you are. Get the f——back in the car.’ He was doing what he could to defuse a volatile situation, just like we’re taught in the academy. If you say, ‘Sit the f——down or I’ll break your arm,’ isn’t that better than actually breaking your arm? He did absolutely nothing wrong. He handled himself very well.”

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Meeks did not return phone calls Wednesday. On July 14, Meeks told the Chicago Sun-Times that his wife was “screaming hysterically in the car” during the incident and that he had no doubt he was the victim of racial profiling. “That’s the moment you realize that you are black. No matter what you have achieved or accomplished, you are still black,” he said.

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