Claiming they are using substandard equipment and restricted from doing their jobs by a former Chicago Police Department Deputy Commissioner turned Chicago State Chief of Police, 28 police officers and dispatchers represented by the Metropolitan Alliance of Police told the CSU Board of Trustees June 23 they have no confidence in the leadership abilities of Chief Patricia Walsh.
The unanimous vote by the members came as a surprise to the Trustees and CSU President Thomas Calhoun. But the officers’ union rep Raymond Violetto said he has been attempting to reach CSU administrators for weeks to try and address the deteriorating conditions within the department and warn the university that community and student’s safety is being put at risk. He listed over a dozen problems during a two-minute speech in front of CSU trustees and President Calhoun.
“I’m disappointed that I’m here today because I have reached out to the board; I have reached out to the president and I have received no correspondence back,” said Violetto at the Board of Trustees meeting held on June 23 in an auditorium at the campus library. “The commanders and officers have lost faith in Chief Walsh. She spends 90 percent of her time behind closed doors in her office; she does not give staff direction; she does not communicate or disseminate information; she does not make decisions without consulting with the prior chief, Ronnie Watson, she gives her secretary power over police personnel, she reversed supervisory roles…and laid off CSU police officers and brought in Chicago and Illinois State Police to patrol the campus,” were just some of the claims leveled by Violetto.
The Crusader spoke with several officers who said some of the issues that need immediate attention are police squad units that are in bad condition, a decrease in patrol areas and traffic enforcement that puts the public at risk. It also does not allow the university to obtain much needed revenue and a manpower shortage during events on campus. They say at times they do not have enough officers to cover the 161-acre campus.
The CSU officers claim Walsh has usurped their authority several times since she became chief in June of 2015. They claim she has treated the agency like a group of security guards and not like fully certified state police officers. They listed several examples in their complaint, which included conferring with the Chicago Police Department on matters concerning the CSU police affairs.
One major area of contention is whether or not CSU officers would be able to write traffic citations and perform patrol duties off the campus itself in the surrounding areas where CSU students, staff and faculty frequent. For nearly 15 years, CSU officers have been patrolling as far north as 87th Street, south to 103rd along with east and west boundaries of Stony Island and the Dan Ryan. Community residents have always welcomed the increased patrols in the area to supplement CPD.
CSU students also want the patrols as many students take the 95th street bus over to the Red Line station where there are constant problems with crime and a CSU shuttle bus makes routine drop-offs and pick-ups during the week. But perhaps the biggest problem with the decrease in patrols is the loss of thousands of dollars of potential revenue at a time when CSU is struggling financially. In Illinois, any law enforcement agency that writes a traffic citation receives a portion of the fine. Streets around the CSU campus where drivers are prone to excessive speeding include Cottage Grove from 95th to 103rd, King drive from 99th to 95th and, along 95th street from Cottage Grove to King Drive.
However, Chief Walsh did order citations to be given earlier this year. When a large group of CSU students decided to protest the state’s budget crisis by blocking traffic in the northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expressway during the morning rush, they were ushered off the expressway by the Illinois State Police (ISP) and then escorted back to campus by CSU police. Upon returning to the campus, the protesters were issued citations by Chicago police, who CSU officers allege were called in by Walsh. A current CPD officer who was there when the citations were issued, spoke with Crusader on the condition their identity was concealed. The CPD officers said the violations to the students should have never come from any CPD officer.
“Per our general order, ISP has jurisdiction on the interstate. CPD will only act in an assist capacity when asked to do so by ISP. CSU police only has jurisdiction on that campus. Hopefully all those citations were beat in court as that city charge for obstruction of the roadway only applies to city streets,” the source said. “Unfortunately I’m sure many people just decided to pay the fine to the city and get it over with. No citations were written when the Fight for 15 Movement blocked Lake Shore Drive around that same time. That’s North side (White protesters) versus Southside (Black protesters) policing.”
The officers also are complaining about excessive discipline measures Walsh has threatened against them. One incident in particular revolved around parking decals that all university personnel must purchase in order to park their personal vehicles on campus. Officers claim that while the letter came from the parking department on Sept. 30, it was generated by Walsh. In the letter, it warns officers that if they do not purchase the sticker by Oct. 2, 2015, they will be suspended one day without pay. The suspension increases to 20 days without pay if non-compliance by Oct. 12 and an officer could face termination by Oct. 13.
“It’s the threat of taking things all the way to the extreme in such a quick fashion. It’s an intimidation tactic,” Violetto said.
Crusader spoke with CSU President Thomas Calhoun after the Board of Trustee meeting along with Trustee Anthony Young seeking comments on the situation with the University police. Both men said they were advised by legal counselors of the school not to make a public statement on the matter and claimed they were unaware of the issues with the police department before the day’s meeting. But Violetto provided Crusader with an email trail that calls into question the President and Young’s claim.
An email dated June 1, 2016 was sent to President Calhoun’s office from Violetto, who informed the president there were problems between officers and Walsh. The following day another email was sent, this time to the board of trustees again indicating a request to meet with CSU administrators to address the problems. Violetto also said he made several phone calls to President Calhoun and trustee members seeking a meeting, but he was never able to reach anyone and his messages were not returned. On June 6 shortly after 11 a.m., the trustees replied to Violetto’s email which read:
“Dear Mr. Violetto, This email has been forwarded to the Office of the President.”
A spokesperson from Calhoun’s office called Crusader and left the following message an hour after the trustee meeting ended June 23:
“President Calhoun is looking to immediately have a meeting with Chief Walsh and other members of the police department in an attempt to address the issues that were brought up by the officer’s union at today’s Board of Trustee meeting.”
The Crusader will continue to follow this story as it develops.