Sheriff's office hunts police radio offender

Winnebago County Sheriff Richard Meyers said July 7 his department is investigating a July 3 incident in which a racial slur was communicated over a police radio. Meyers added it was too early to determine the identity of the offender.

Regardless of whether the perpetrator was a police official or person outside law enforcement, Meyers said, if apprehended, the individual may face termination of their employment with a government agency and/or Federal Communications Commission (FCC) penalties.

The FCC regulates publicly-owned frequencies on which public safety agencies broadcast communications. Those communications are accessible to the public through listening devices known as “scanners.”

It was through a scanner that a source heard the alleged incident.

The source alleged that at approximately 6:20 p.m., on July 3: “Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies were involved in a foot chase with a suspect that was wanted on several warrants, including fleeing from law enforcement officers.

“As the case continued in the area of South Central Avenue and Michigan streets, Rockford Police officers were summoned to assist. As the chase proceeded to the Ogilby Road and Rose Street area, one voice on the radio stated clearly: ‘How many cops does it take to catch one n- – – -r?’

“The radio went silent. A short time later, the suspect was apprehended, and one of the County supervisors radioed the dispatcher to hold a copy of the tape. This incident took place on the channel known as ‘Control one,’” the source alleged.

Meyers confirmed the source’s allegation, but did not repeat the racial slur. Meyers said: “It was a filthy comment” that would be investigated.

He added the comment likely originated from a “mobile unit.”

“Regardless of who was responsible, we want to find this individual,” Meyers said.

From the July 13-19, 2005, issue

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