MT. PROSPECT, IL – A village trustee in Mount Prospect, Illinois, compared the police to Hitler, Nazis, and “slave patrols” during a recent village meeting on removing the Thin Blue Line shoulder patch from Mt. Prospect police uniforms.
Village trustee Peggy Pissarreck, who was elected in May of 2021, made these references on August 10, 2021 while questioning Mount Prospect Police Chief John Koziol over his support for the patch.
Beginning in December 2017, Mount Prospect police uniforms featured a shield-shaped shoulder patch with a silhouette of the state of Illinois overlying a Thin Blue Line flag.
The words “Police Mount Prospect” are above the flag and silhouette, and the year “1917” on the state silhouette marks the year of the village’s incorporation.
According to NBC Chicago, the Mount Prospect Police Department announced at the release of the patch that it was intended to honor fallen officers, saying in a press release:
“the thin blue lined [sic] flag honors the law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their communities.”
However, in the ensuing years, some community complaints led to a debate about whether the patch honoring the fallen was to remain on the uniforms.
One resident, for instance, told NBC Chicago:
“Automatically, it makes us wary of the police if they’re putting a Blue Lives Matter flag on their uniform.”
The resident continued:
“I feel that it’s drawing a line between the police officers and the community that they’re meant to serve.”
Mount Prospect police officers stood strong against the pushback and calls for removal of the patch, with Mount Prospect Police Officer Chris Berg telling listeners at a Mount Prospect village board meeting in June of 2021:
“That Thin Blue Line that some call ‘evil,’ ‘fearful,’ or a ‘symbol of hate,’ is a total disrespect of every one of those officers who have given their all serving their communities.
“It’s not white supremacy. It’s not neo-Nazism. It does not represent hate.”
Mount Prospect Police Department Chief John Koziol also told Fox and Friends in June:
“[The patch] was designed back when there was a large number of police officers being ambushed.”
“Over time, it has come to symbolize a memorial to police officers killed in the line of duty, and that was the entire intent of it being on our shoulder…that’s why we’re refusing to remove it.”
Apparently unmoved by the statements of their police officers and chief, Mt. Prospect leadership held a hearing on August 10, 2021, regarding removal of the patch from police uniforms.
At that Committee of the Whole meeting, Police Chief Koziol spoke on the Thin Blue Line patch, his refusal to remove it, and his support for his fellow police officers.
He pointed out to listeners how the patch, when first introduced, received no negative attention whatsoever from the public.
“I would again like to clarify what the image depicted on our patch represents to the men and women of this police department.
“The meaning of the blue line flag portion of the patch worn on our shoulder is twofold.
“The blue line represents the line between order and chaos, and the flag is a memorial to police officers killed in the line of duty.
“It was never, and never will be an image of hate”:
Mount Prospect Police Chief John Koziol says officers are refusing demands to remove the ‘thin blue line’ patch from their uniforms because it serves as a memorial to fallen officers.https://t.co/HAu6NMKt3V
— Fox & Friends First (@FoxFriendsFirst) June 22, 2021
Referring to purported white supremacists carrying Thin Blue Line flags at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, Koziol continued:
“That meaning has never changed, and how, because one hater in a Charlottesville demonstration carried such a flag changes the meaning of this symbol, I will never understand….
“How a symbol that represents a memorial to police officers who were killed serving their community can turn into a symbol of hate defies all logic.
“Keep in mind this flag is often held by loved ones at their father’s, mother’s, daughter’s, son’s funerals who were police officers killed in the line of duty.
“To say that this flag is a symbol of hate is a slap in the face to all law enforcement officers and their loved ones that look upon this symbol of reverence.”
Touching on the history of the Thin Blue Line flag, Koziol went on to note:
“The truth of the matter is, the blue line flag was created after a disturbing number of police officers in the U.S. were killed in ambushes, spiked after anti-police demonstrations.”
Koziol also recalled numerous supportive phone calls he had received from the “silent majority” in support of the Thin Blue Line flag, “telling me the importance of finally saying enough is enough to another vilification of American law enforcement.”
He also pointed out that the Anti-Defamation League does not list the Thin Blue Line flag in their database of hate symbols.
“I now respectfully request that these same people [objectors to the patch], instead of looking for an evil meaning, accept what this symbol has always represented, a memorial to fallen police officers.
“I ask that everyone believe in these police officers who are wearing the shoulder patch, and assist us in educating its true noble meaning.
“Finally, I ask Your Honor, members of this board, after your careful deliberations, that you remember:
“The simple step of a courageous individual is to not partake in a lie.”
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Koziol’s heartfelt testimony was greeted by loud applause and followed by questions from the trustees.
After trustee Peggy Pissarreck questioned Koziol about the process for choosing the shoulder patch, Koziol respectfully asked her:
“So, one hater, because you’re talking about Charlottesville, and I think this is important.
“What I don’t get is, why we would let one racist hater change the meaning of something that means so much to us?
“I mean, if you start letting those people do that, they’ve taken over. And let me assure you, police officers hate white supremacists….
“I would like to know from you why one person, one very probably bad person, can change the meaning of something so noble to us?
Mount Prospect votes to remove thin blue line patch from police uniforms https://t.co/X6GgjKMCGU
— WGN TV News (@WGNNews) August 12, 2021
“Well, Hitler did that when he, um…”
Boos erupted from the audience.
Pissarreck continued, doubling down:
“Well, and actually, it was the Nazi party that did that when they took the Buddhist symbol, so, you know, it’s been done before.”
After more boos, additional trustee questions and citizen testimony, both pro and con, followed.
When it came time for the members of the board to share their views, Pissarreck did not let up on her previous incendiary words.
Claiming that she campaigned on being a “good neighbor” to Mount Prospect residents, she added:
“I also said that I would work to make Mt. Prospect a warm, welcoming, multiculturally diverse community where every resident feels free to be their authentic self.
“As has been said multiple times, this patch is considered racist and white supremacist by many, regardless of what the intent is.
“Because of that, I fear for the reputation that this fine village will take on if, after tonight, we vote to retain that police patch.”
“I’ve got other things I could say. I could talk about George Floyd residual effects.
“I could talk about systemic racism, the fact that policing here in the U.S. – what I’ve heard multiple times, is based on slave patrols.”
Understandably, mutterings from the audience were quite audible when Pissarreck shared these thoughts.
She concluded her words with the apparently conflicting statement:
“So I just support our police, but I don’t like the patch. That’s all I have to say.”
Unfortunately, at the end of the meeting, Mount Prospect trustees voted 4-3 to remove the patch from police uniforms.
Police & Fire Ill. board votes to remove ‘thin blue line’ patches from police uniforms: Mount Prospect Police Chief John Koziol defended the patch saying it is a “slap in the face” to officers when people say the flag is a symbol… https://t.co/7hG8CS6M7v https://t.co/crSktQuzDy pic.twitter.com/mGrap8WYLf
— LightAndSirenPros (@LightSirenPros) August 13, 2021
Mount Prospect police did not go quietly, however, in light of Pissarreck’s hateful comments comparing police to Nazis and evoking “slave patrols.”
At a subsequent village meeting on September 7, 2021, Commander Anthony Addante, a 22-year veteran of the Mount Prospect Police Department, spoke up to defend his fellow police officers.
He told attendees that he was present because it was his responsibility to support his fellow officers in the Mount Prospect Police Department, and he was there to discuss the hateful comments that were made during the debate.
“Pissarreck discussed how Hitler and the Nazi party co-opted a symbol, in the same breath as mentioning the Mount Prospect police patch.
“Any attempt to correlate Nazism and Hitler to the Mount Prospect Police Department is vile.
“It is a slap in the face to the men and women of the Mount Prospect Police Department, and our families.”
Addante also addressed Pissarreck’s “slave patrol” statement as well, saying:
“Pissarreck stated, ‘I’ve heard from some people policing is based on slave patrols.’
“‘Slave patrols.’ Correlating ‘slave patrols’ to the men and women of the Mount Prospect Police Department is an attack on our character, and our integrity.
“This erodes public trust that we have earned through years of dedicated service, and this is unacceptable.
Adding that Pissarreck had also implied that there was a culture of racism in the Mount Prospect Police Department, he said:
“I have a significant influence on our organizational culture, and to suggest that I would propagate a culture of racism is an attack on my character, my integrity.
“This is abhorrent, and frankly, unethical.”
Addante next pointed out the selflessness of Mount Prospect police officers, who do their jobs faithfully and “create positive change” despite “vile” criticism, and despite a cost to their mental and physical well-being.
“Equating Nazism, Hitler, ‘slave patrols,’ culture of racism, to the men and women of the Mount Prospect Police Department does something far worse than defund the police.
“This demoralizes us. And we must not allow that to happen.”
Addante concluded, to a standing ovation and cheers:
“The men and women of the Mount Prospect Police Department, and men and women across this nation, we serve with courage, bravery, honor.
“We have integrity and character, for we truly are the best of people.”
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