Waterloo, Iowa (AP) —The first black police chief in Waterloo, Iowa, now and formerly in collaboration with city leaders to reform the department, including the removal of a long-standing insignia similar to the Ku Klux Klan. Faced with fierce opposition from police officers. Clan dragon.
Joel Fitzgerald states that his 16-month tenure in Waterloo, a 67,000 city with a history of racism, is a “case study” of what black police chiefs are facing. Build trust in the community Keep officers at a higher standard. In an interview with the Associated Press, he said the attack was caused by false information and racism against him. His boss, The first black mayor of the city.
“I don’t think there’s a small or medium-sized police chief in the United States who has endured this for the reasons I’ve endured. I think the reason is racially related,” Fitzgerald said earlier. He was responsible for the larger divisions of Fort Worth, Texas and Allentown, Pennsylvania. “This is my fourth job as my first black police chief. I’ve dealt with pushbacks elsewhere, but it’s not so obvious. It’s never the case.”
Jachinta Gau, a professor at the University of Central Florida and a racial and police expert, said the new reform-minded chief is constantly facing backlash.
“American power has always been that blacks are subordinate to whites. When blacks gained leadership positions, the dynamics of that power came to mind, and whites who were content with the status quo are now very much. I feel threatened, “she said.
The backlash against Fitzgerald began last fall when the city council began promoting the removal of the department’s emblem, a green-eyed, red-bodied, winged creature known as Griffin that had been patching officers’ uniforms since the 1960s. It has been intensifying since then.
After a messy process, the council voted 5-2 last week to order the department to remove the symbol from its uniforms by the end of September.
While offending police unions, retired officers, and the Conservatives, it was praised by Mayor Quentin Hart, most city council members, and some community leaders for some changes made by the department under Fitzgerald. It was the latest in.
A white city council member running to leave Hart in November portrayed himself as a police champion, vowing to expel Fitzgerald if elected. A political action committee that supports her and other “law enforcement candidates” called Cedar Valley Bucks The Blue has attacked Fitzgerald and Hart on Facebook and said they mismanaged the department. Insisted.
Three of Fitzgerald’s predecessors, as chiefs, resented that the department was placed under his leadership, claiming that it was a “release” and that morals had reached a record low. Was announced.
In addition to the backlash, Fitzgerald is an outsider of Waterloo, and doctors with a degree are ridiculing elitists. He admits that he “did not look good” when the news came out that he was the finalist of the chief opening in a big city in the first year.
Opponents attacked everything from Fitzgerald’s salary, which matches a similar chief in Iowa, to off-duty trips to visit Texas families. There, his teenage son continues to treat a brain tumor that was removed in 2019.
last year, He took over the department It has long experienced tensions with the black community of cities, which make up 17% of the city’s population.
Hart said Waterloo could have been a hotbed of racial anxiety after George Floyd’s death, given its history, but Fitzgerald said on the day before his oath on June 1, 2020. I eased the tension by meeting with the protesters for hours and listening to their concerns.
“It was a clock moment reset,” Fitzgerald said.
Immediately many changes followed: a ban on strangler figs, outlawing racial profiling, demands for executive intervention in the event of excessive force, and investigation of all complaints of fraud.
The Waterloo Human Rights Commission called for the removal of the Griffin emblem and said it aroused fear and distrust among some because it resembled the KKK symbol.
However, generations of Waterloo police officers regarded it as a symbol of vigilance. The Waterloo Police Conservation Society, which represents the officers, denied the intention of racism and mobilized in opposition to the dismissal.
Fitzgerald, one of the few colored executives in the department with 123 members, said he had a fierce backlash when he proposed to voluntarily rebrand the department before the council acted. rice field.
Griffin supporters, including the Back the Blue Group, have assembled its removal as an insult to the officers.
“Police strikes continue,” city councilman Margaret Klein, who is running for mayor, wrote on Facebook, citing “the devastating effects of removing the beloved 50-year patch design.” .. She called for Fitzgerald’s resignation.
Hart said the debate over Griffin missed the big picture. The agency said it had adopted a popular community-based police model and experienced a “complete paradigm shift.”
“Dignity and respect, that’s what I want, but I’m a law enforcement agency,” said Hart, who was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017 and 2019.
Back the Blue Group named Hart a “radical mayor” and released an anonymous survey conducted by half of its current executives and dozens of retirees, all 98 of whom Fitzgerald took on the job. He showed that he believed he was the wrong person. Officers complained that they did not feel the support of the community and government.
“It’s sad and pathetic, but that’s what’s happening at the Waterloo Police Station,” said retired investigator, Group Chairman Lynn Moller.
Fitzgerald said executive morale is a national issue and Waterloo has eight vacancies after some executives retire or go to other jobs. He proposed a strategic plan to boost morale and hire more executives in the coming years.
City council member Jonathan Greeder said Fitzgerald was fooled by those who claimed to love the police.
“We are tackling the very real problems that have long been embedded in race, power and police,” he said. “I think some people haven’t had to take that into account until now. I think it’s unpleasant.”