Forest Preserve District of Cook County Vows to ‘Look Forward’ in Response to Puerto Rican Woman Being Harassed on Video

Jul 12, 2018
12:32 PM

On Thursday morning, the Forest Preserve District of Cook County issued the following statement regarding the viral video by 24-year-old Mia Irizarry, who was harassed by Timothy Tybus for wearing a Puerto Rico t-shirt while a Forest Preserve police officer looked on. That police officer, Patrick Conner, resigned on Wednesday night.

STATEMENT: General Superintendent Arnold Randall addresses June 14 incident and looks forward

As we announced last night, Officer Patrick Conner no longer serves in the police department of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. He resigned late in the day yesterday, while our investigation was still underway. But, to be clear, Conner was not allowed on patrol duty immediately following the incident. Further, his personnel file will reflect that this officer did not resign in good standing, with a note indicating he left the district with “discipline pending”.

I also want to recognize and thank Sergeant Spina-Fox and the other officers who stepped in, protecting Mia Irizarry and her family, and arresting the individual whose behavior was so appalling.

Immediately after the incident at Caldwell Woods, we apologized directly to Ms. Irizarry and refunded the money she paid for her permit.

I am sincerely sorry this happened. I’ve seen the video, and I am outraged that this would happen anywhere, but especially sad it happened in our Forest Preserves.

Clearly, our work isn’t done.

Certain aspects of the investigation are continuing, as it relates to the State’s Attorney’s investigation of potential criminal charges against Mr. Trybus. And, we are continuing our internal review because we know that we can learn from this incident.

We are deeply committed to inclusivity and make every effort to infuse our work with that commitment. But we know there’s always room for improvement and we want to use this incident as an opportunity to grow stronger. We have already begun reaching out to our partners in the community, seeking advice about how we can better serve all communities and be more welcoming hosts to patrons of diverse backgrounds. Specifically, we are:

  • Looking at ways to improve all aspects of employee training: certainly, we have ongoing diversity training; in fact, the officer in question went through it just about a year ago. But we want to take another look, see how this training can be improved—not just for officers, but for all our staff. We will treat this as a learning opportunity.
  • Seeking advice from the community leaders who best understand the needs of their communities. While we have worked hard to build our partnerships, we are setting goals for more and also for ways to make those partnerships more impactful.
  • Internally, we have made it a priority to create an inclusive environment and a staff that reflects the diversity of the communities we serve. We also value continued improvement which includes ways to engage all of our staff, especially people of color, because we know those directly-impacted are the best-equipped to guide our policies.

And for each of us, we need to think seriously about the rash of racially-charged, abusive incidents we’re seeing throughout the country. We all need to stand up to this behavior. These angry outbursts and attacks don’t represent our values and are NOT representing who we are as a country.

And, it’s up to each one of us to present a better model, to demonstrate with our own actions, how to treat people with more respect. We might start with the fine example presented by Mia Irizarry and her family, who handled this ugly incident with great composure, never stooping to the level of the man who attacked her.

I hope Ms. Irizarry will come back to the Forest Preserves of Cook County for her next celebration. We are working every day to earn her trust and the trust of all our residents and visitors.

Here is a video of the Thursday press conference: