Viral Video Puts Spotlight on Cook County Forest Preserve
Cook County officials are reacting to a video that’s gone viral on social media. It appears to show an intoxicated man harassing a woman of Puerto Rican descent in the forest preserve as a law enforcement official looks on.
Now, a little-known police unit within Cook County that has long been the subject of debate is under new scrutiny.
The video appears to show the man harassing a woman who rented a picnic area at the park whose shirt displays the Puerto Rican flag.
“Can you get away from me, please,” the woman repeatedly says in the video.
“Are you a citizen?” he asks. “Then you should be wearing a United States of America flag.”
A Cook County Forest Preserve District police officer in the video has been remanded to desk duty pending an investigation, because the woman claims – and the video appears to show – that he is standing idle while the harassment takes place. Action is only taken later, when more officers arrive on the scene. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she’s concerned by the whole incident.
“We’ve worked hard over the last 7.5 years to make the forest preserve welcoming for all,” she said. “The incident last June is completely unacceptable, and I apologize to the woman who had this terrible experience. I’m troubled by the response of the initial officer on the scene.”
Preckwinkle’s comments came after the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, publicly asked her to intervene.
.@CookCountygov is home to one of the most diverse populations in all of the great land of ours. I am sure @tonipreckwinkle will take matter into her hands as justice and diversity have been central to her exemplary career.
— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) July 10, 2018
The incident has shed new light on the relatively obscure police force run by the forest preserve, the usefulness of which has been the subject of debate for many years.
The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has repeatedly said the county could save millions of dollars by getting rid of it altogether and having the sheriff’s police assume those duties – something Preckwinkle opposes.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz