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Former Flossmoor police chief files federal lawsuit charging racially motivated treatment

Former Flossmoor Police Chief Jerel Jones, center, speaks at a news conference announcing a federal lawsuit against the village. He is flanked by his attorneys, Cass Casper, left, and Robert Fioretti, right. Behind them are representatives of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, who were there to support Jones. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

At a news conference Monday, March 11, attorneys for former Flossmoor Police Chief Jerel Jones announced they had filed a civil rights complaint in federal court in response to Jones’ termination last week.

Robert Fioretti and Cass Casper of Disparti Law Group introduced the lawsuit, which they said was based on “race discrimination and retaliation” allegations Jones faced while serving as Flossmoor’s police chief for nearly one year. 

The complaint cites the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as its basis.

Read the lawsuit text here.

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The suit names the Village of Flossmoor and Village Manager Bridget Wachtel as defendants. As police chief, Jones reported directly to Wachtel. Mayor Michelle Nelson is not named as a defendant, but the suit claims she deferred to Wachtel’s views in dismissing Jones.

The complaint asserts that Wachtel micromanaged how Jones performed his job and applied different expectations to him than on white department heads, including critiquing his manner of speaking, his use of a cell phone to communicate with other security partners during Flossmoor Fest, task delegation practices and equipment purchase decisions.

The document includes excerpts from Jones’ performance reviews as examples.

The suit asks for “all available relief, including reinstatement, back pay and damages, and an injunction against the village requiring it to send the village manager and all other administration officials to comprehensive racial sensitivity training.”

Casper said the village can prevent the lawsuit from proceeding further by rectifying the situation.

“We’re offering this: A full public apology from the mayor to Chief Jones,” he said. “Bring him back as police chief. Remove him from the campaign of hypercritical, race-based criticism and give him a fair chance to be police chief free from that double standard.”

Jones also received support at the news conference from representatives of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE). Mitchell Davis, who is police chief of Hazel Crest, read a statement on behalf of the organization.

Mitchell Davis, representing National Organization of Black Law Enforcement
Executives, presents a statement from the organization in support of former
Flossmoor Police Chief Jerel Jones. (Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)

“It is very alarming that in a matter of months the administration determined that Chief Jones made ‘serious lapses in performance’ that rose to the level of severing his relationship with the community,” Davis read. “It appears to us that members of the Flossmoor community share these same concerns.”

Jones said he did not experience similar performance critiques when he was police chief in Macomb prior to coming to Flossmoor.

“I had absolute full support of the men and women of the Macomb police department, the mayor, the city administrator, the community,” he said. “Macomb made it very clear they wanted me to stay.”

Regarding a statement from the village reported by WGN -TV indicating that Jones had helped engineer a large public turnout at the March 4 board meeting, Fioretti said Jones was not involved in that.

“People heard about it and showed up,” he said.

Davis said members of the area NOBLE chapter attended the meeting to show support for Jones because he is facing issues they have faced.

“What happens quite often that most people will never know is that there are communities all around the country that have crises when they bring in chiefs of color,” he said. “We as an organization, we have to stand up for one another. If we don’t stand up for one another, who’s going to stand up for us?”

Related stories:

Jones’ supporters rally at Flossmoor Village Hall on Monday (March 11, 2024)
Jerel Jones complaint filed against Flossmoor (March 11, 2024).
Flossmoor mayor says police chief will leave after less than a year at the helm (March 7, 2024).
Flossmoor mayor posts statement on police leadership, indicates chief and village will ‘part ways’ (March 7, 2024).
Flossmoor residents fill board room to show support for police chief (March 5, 2024).

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