(From left) Julia Kline, Ephraim Lee, and Alexander Perez are members of the 2nd Police District Council. Credit: Zoe Pharo

A police district councilor sent an email to a staffer last year that sparked a furor and led to fourteen other councilors signing a letter demanding that she publicly apologize and attend racial sensitivity training. 

Julia Kline, a member of the 2nd Police District Council, sent the email to a staffer for the Community Commission on Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) on May 3, 3023, the day after councilors were sworn into office. The 2nd (Wentworth) Police District includes Hyde Park-Kenwood, Bronzeville, and Washington Park.

The Weekly obtained the email via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

In a thread that included the email, Kline initially asked the staffer for advice on how to bar members of the public from attending meetings “if they happen to engage in hate speech or other kinds of threatening behavior online or in settings outside the meeting.” The staffer said they’d look into the matter, and advised Kline that discussions of bylaws were subject to the Open Meetings Act (OMA) and emails were discoverable via FOIA. 

In a subsequent email, the staffer, who is a Black person, told Kline they had removed her fellow district councilors from the email thread to avoid violating the OMA.

“What a clever monkey you are! Lol,” Kline, who is white, replied.   

“White people use the word monkey all the time as a term of endearment,” Kline told the Weekly. “It doesn’t justify it and doesn’t make it okay.”

When other police district councilors learned of the email, they were incensed. 

“I was pretty livid about it when I first was made aware about it,” said Alexander Perez, who serves on the 2nd PDC with Kline. “I was at a loss of words, but I can still remember the initial feeling when I read it, and I was shaking, like I literally was shaking.” 

Perez texted Kline about the email. “Please please please do not ever again use the term ‘clever monkey’ toward another Black person again in an email or conversation,” he wrote in a text reviewed by the Weekly. Kline apparently did not respond to this text. In the subsequent district council meetings that Perez and Kline jointly attended, Kline “pretended like nothing had happened,” according to Perez. 

When asked to comment, Kline denied the existence of the text message. 

“I never received a text message from Alex about this issue,” she said.

Sylvia Jones, the vice president of the South/West Area Civic League of Chicago, emailed CCPSA executive director Adam Gross and deputy director for district councils Damon Smith in July to demand Kline’s removal. In the email, obtained by the Weekly via a FOIA request, Jones called Kline’s email “appalling.” Jones could not be reached for comment.

The CCPSA has no authority to remove district council members from office. Under state law, only people convicted of a felony, bribery, or other “infamous crimes” can be barred from holding elected positions.

Erin Vogel, a 9th District council member, attended a 2nd PDC meeting on July 31, before the letter was drafted, and asked Kline to publicly apologize for the email. 12th District council member Leo Quintero and 7th District council member Dion McGill also spoke about accountability at the meeting. The minutes don’t show any record of Kline apologizing at the meeting.

Kline claimed that the 2nd District councilors had agreed not to respond to public comments at that specific meeting.

On August 4, fourteen district councilors representing nine of the city’s twenty-two PDCs sent a letter to Kline, CCPSA president Anthony Driver, Gross, and Smith. In an email accompanying the letter, Vogel, asked for the CCPSA’s support in “finding and establishing a space to facilitate a cultural sensitivity training session for Councilor Kline.” 

The letter “firmly” called on Kline to publicly apologize and, “at the very least,” commit to attending racial sensitivity training.

“Transparency and accountability must begin with us,” the letter concluded, “and if we are to fulfill our duties as elected officials effectively, then we must be willing to take responsibility for our actions without exceptions.”

Gross said the commission took a number of steps to address the incident, including offering Kline racial sensitivity training.

Kline said she has not attended a racial sensitivity training since sending the email.

“I would be willing to attend a training that all district councilors attend,” she said. “Anything that I am being singled out for, that’s inappropriate.”

She added that Perez should also have to attend the training. 

After receiving the letter, Kline discussed the email in a lengthy phone call with Vogel.

“I did a lot of listening, and really felt like the sentiment and the harm felt by [Kline’s] two colleagues in the district wasn’t really resonating with her—that they felt harmed by her actions, whether intentionally racist or not,” Vogel said. “In my opinion, [Kline] didn’t really embrace the accountability that we were looking for.”

CCPSA president Driver called the incident “frustrating” and said he was angered by it.

“Those types of things should never happen,” Driver said. “Once they do happen, there should be an immediate admission of wrongdoing, and an apology, and an attempt to reconcile. [They] have no place in our government, our democracy, [or] our commission.”

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Jim Daley is the Weekly’s investigations editor. Max Blaisdell is a fellow with the Invisible Institute and a staff writer for the Hyde Park Herald.

Join the Conversation


  1. I live in the 2nd district and voted for Alex Perez, Coston Plummer, and Julia Kline. I regretted my Kline vote immediately after attending the first meeting of the newly elected council. I watched remotely two subsequent meetings that she deigned to attend and it’s unfortunate but openly apparent to all that the 2nd district deserves better representation on this council than what she is giving us.
    I now hope that she can be recalled and a new election held for that seat.

  2. That’s a truly racist remark. Why is it that she could not have simply called him by his name, smh😏😏

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