Black and White and Blue all Over

Veteran Chicago cop leads Daniel Island chapter of ROMEO in talk on issue of police, community shootings

By Charlie Morrison

The Daniel Island chapter of national men’s group ROMEO (Retired Old Men Eating Out) met on October 20 to tackle a difficult issue for their monthly discussion, that of Black Lives Matter, black-on-blue, blue-on-black, and black-on-black crime. The talk was in keeping with their national mandate to “conduct intelligent non-partisan discussion and analysis of substantive, topical issues of the day” and, led by invited speaker and longtime law enforcement professional Carl Stoll, the group did just that.

Stoll, a current Administrative Law Judge for the State of New York, was invited to speak on the issue by group member and Daniel Island resident Fred Danziger, who’d become friends with the former Chicago Police Department (CPD) detective and former Administrative Law Judge for the City of New York back in the Big Apple over a decade ago. The two met working alongside one another on a New York City condominium board, and have remained friends ever since.

Danziger knew of Stoll’s experience in working on all sides of the issue of police and citizen interaction, and given his group’s interest in discussing recent police shootings and other crimes, it was only natural that he fly his friend in from the big city to tackle the topic. Danziger himself introduced the ROMEO group to Stoll by detailing his career, and, needless to say, by the time he commented on the state of police conduct and crime in the black community, his audience was rapt.

“I’ve had several conversations with Fred and Vicky (Danziger) about the issues that we’re going to have a conversation about, a few issues that we all confront, on the shooting of people by the police,” began Stoll. “I was a police officer for 29 years and a lawyer for 28 years… but I’ve been a black my whole life.”

“Growing up, I had interactions with the police department in Chicago,” continued Stoll, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in sociology, a Master’s in Urban Studies, and a J.D. (law degree). “Mostly positive, but I was stopped a lot. And I’ve been thrown in jail before, and when I say ‘thrown in jail’ I mean literally.”

Stoll went on to describe the time he participated in a non-violent protest opposing school segregation in Chicago.

“Two police officers took me by the arms and by the ankles and swung me back and forth and then threw me in the jail cell,” he added. “So I’ve had experiences with the police department as a civilian and obviously as a police officer.”

On the topic of police conduct and policies regarding police and civilian interaction, Stoll is by all counts an expert. After serving for over a decade as a CPD patrolman, in 1978 Stoll was promoted to detective, and for the next eight years he plied his skills as part of the organized crime division intelligence section while moonlighting on a joint task force with the FBI to fight organized crime.

Between 1986 and 1988, Stoll served as the CPD’s administrative sergeant responsible for coordinating better communication between the police officers and the community, and from 1988 to 1992 he served as the department advocate for judicial soundness, where he doled out the disciplinary action of police officers when necessary.

His final stop in the CPD was in an even more important role. He worked as the administrative assistant to the deputy superintendent of the CPD, the commanding officer of the disciplinary section responsible for disciplinary policies and procedures. After moving to New York, he served on the civilian complaint review board as an investigative manager for allegations of excessive force and abuse of authority for the New York City Police Department before taking his prestigious position as the City’s Administrative Law Judge.

The conversation and questions bubbled with intensity, and the group showed a sincere yearning for the roots of the problem of violence in American life, and to potential solutions. Discrimination, racism, bias, and prejudice were all front and center inside the conference room at the Daniel Island Club, where the ROMEO meeting took place.

The names Michael Slager and Rueben Greenberg made cameo appearances in the discussion, which centered on what all present at the ROMEO meeting agreed was an alarming situation, the apparent increase in police shootings, black-on-black crime, and in general gun violence in the greater American community. To address these topics Stoll got specific, drawing from events he himself had experienced as a cop, an attorney, and a black man since birth. He turned first to his time working the tough streets on the south side of Chicago in the 1960’s, and to the continued shootings going on there to this day.

“Those things have been going on for years. They were going on when I was on the police (force). I’ve pulled police officers off people when they were beating them up, I’ve witnessed disrespectful comments of police officers to citizens, all of those things you and I are hearing about today have been going on for many years and it’s just now that it’s come forward,” said Stoll, whose son, like his father, works Chicago’s south side as a detective with the CPD and even dons the very star on his uniform the elder Stoll once used.

“It’s not gotten any better and it’s not gotten any worse,” Stoll continued. “It is the exact same thing that has been going on for a lot of years and it has bred distrust amongst the minority communities with police departments.”

At one point ROMEO member David Brown reminded the group that the mission statement of the organization is to not only discuss the nature of problems but also to advance solutions. “We are all appalled at these numerous examples of bias, prejudice, and violence, but what do we do about them?” he asked.

On the topic of solutions Stoll remained humble, as the problem, he explained, was multi-faceted. “It’s a problem that’s almost insurmountable, but there are things that we can do, things that you can do, things that I can do that would contribute to a ‘cure.’ And I don’t know if all the things that everybody could do would solve the problem, but I’m optimistic.”

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