BOYSTOWN — The Northalsted Business Alliance confirmed Friday it will stop contracting with a private security firm owned by a Chicago cop accused of a racist attack in 2013.
Walsh Security, owned by 19th District police officer Thomas Walsh, has been contracted by the Northalsted Business Alliance on a case-by-case basis for the last three years, according to Jennifer Gordon, a spokeswoman for the business alliance. The company would send guards to work events like the Pride Parade, Pride Festival and Market Days, as well as provide evening patrols during summer weekends.
Given the cancellation of this years’ Pride Parade and festivals due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boystown’s business alliance hadn’t started any formal agreement with Walsh Security this year, according to Ramesh Ariyanayakam, executive director of the alliance and owner of the Kit Kat Lounge and Supper Club.
Due to both the pandemic and current movement against police brutality, the business alliance has “no plans to contract with Walsh Security going forward.”
Every year, the Northalsted Business Alliance sends out a Request For Proposals to fill its security needs, and it had never entered into a recurring agreement with Walsh Security, Ariyanayakam said.
Officer Walsh was accused of attacking a Black security guard and repeatedly calling him the n-word in 2013 while off-duty at the Lucky Horseshoe Lounge in Boystown, according to records from the city’s former Independent Police Review Authority obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
Walsh denied the attack when speaking with IPRA investigators, but said he regretted using “some profanity” toward the guard.
In 2015, IPRA recommended Walsh be suspended from the police department for 60 days, which he appealed. Nearly five years later, the investigation remains under review by the Chicago Police Department, city records show.
Judy Dever, deputy corporation counsel for Chicago, said Thursday that a hearing regarding Walsh’s appeal has taken place, and a decision is expected “in the next few weeks.”
Jamie Frazier, executive director of the Lighthouse Foundation — a Black-and LGBTQ-led social justice group that has fought against Walsh Security’s presence in Boystown since last summer — praised the Northalsted Business Alliance’s decision to drop Walsh as “a good small step in the right direction.”
“I think it’s an acknowledgement of the present moment,” Frazier said. “It’s unfortunate it takes a national upheaval and tumult for the Northalsted Business Alliance to take this simple, small first step, but I embrace this.”
Frazier said he hopes the Northalsted Business Alliance will include the Lighthouse Foundation in any racial justice work they plan to do throughout the neighborhood.
“I look forward to seeing what commitments they make going forward to embody the ‘Black Lives Matter’ messages plastered on their windows and social media pages,” Frazier said.
Pressure from the Lighthouse Foundation has previously led to the removal of Walsh Security from the Center on Halsted, Chicago’s largest LGBTQ community hub.
In January, the Center announced that Quantum Security, a Black-owned firm employed by other LGBTQ organizations like Brave Space Alliance and Howard Brown Health, was selected as Walsh’s replacement.
“This is a great moment that we need to turn into a movement,” Frazier said. “What are the institutional commitments that Boystown is willing to make around continued and constant investment in Black, queer communities?”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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