St. John Indiana police accused of racial profiling

Evelyn Holmes Image
Friday, April 8, 2016
St. John police officer accused of racial profiling
A police officer in northwest Indiana has been taken off the streets pending an investigation into racial profiling allegations.

ST. JOHN, Ind. (WLS) -- An officer in St. John, Ind., who is accused of racial profiling is off the streets pending the outcome of an investigation.

On Friday, protesters descended on the St. John Indiana Police Department, accusing cops there of racial profiling.

"They're saying to stop them before they get to work. Stop them for what? To detain them, to arrest them, to be asking for their documents," said Emma Lozano, Lincoln United Methodist Church.

Some Latinos like David Delgado who live in the area say it's been going on for years.

"It is a pretty well-known fact that in St. John, people of color are pulled over," said David Delgado, a St. John resident.

Friday's demonstration comes after Latino leaders say they received a complaint alleging that a St. John police officer was racially profiling Hispanics. They say a town police message log given to them by an anonymous source documents an officer telling a dispatcher he was conducting a "Mexican hunt."

"Words like 'Mexican hunt'. 'These beaners are going to get to work early.' Those words are unacceptable," said Julie Contreras, League of United Latin American Citizens.

Eyewitness News could not confirm the source of the alleged documents. Meanwhile, the police department's new chief, who came on the job in January, says he won't tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind.

"If there is any wrongdoing uncovered by anyone, those individuals will be held accountable to the appropriate level of their actions," Chief James Kveton said.

In a statement, a lawyer for the accused cop says his client has been defamed and that accusations have no factual basis. The police officer allegedly involved was placed on administrative leave with pay in December while an internal investigation is completed by an independent investigator.

"He's a professional who has all the credentials on the outside with no relationship to this town," said David Austgen, St. John town attorney.

Community activists have requested five years of records related to the departments treatment of Latinos and other minorities. They also held a prayer vigil, hoping for change.

"For all people of color this is absolutely intolerable," said Cheryl Rivera, community activist.

The allegations of racial profiling are not the only issue the department is dealing with. Three women have filed sexual harassment lawsuits against the department as well. Town officials refused to comment on those.