To The Illinois FOP

This communication is in regards to the letter to the editor sent and printed in The McDonough County Voice on May 6, 2021 by the President of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, Chris Southwood.

Your letter retaliated on an organization and individuals calling for federal investigations with DOZENS OF COMPLAINTS and ample video, email, audio, and eyewitness evidence as to the pervasiveness and severity of the allegations we have made public involving the three individuals you mentioned, Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker (recently retired), Macomb Police Officer Gavin Steiger, and McDonough County Sheriff Nicholas Pettigout. We have some videos of this online, publicly available via Google search. You should have, at minimum, performed a review of the publicly available facts before jumping to conclusions. Your letter degraded, lied about, and dehumanized us. A union should be ashamed for abusing its power in such a malicious, dangerous, intimidating manner.

It is improper for a police organization to retaliate on the Democratic Women of McDonough County and myself for our calls for investigations and removal of our Sheriff Nicholas Pettigout, our (now retired) Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker, and Macomb Police Officer Gavin Steiger.

Information as to why we have called for Macomb’s Chief Barker to step down is available at Among the reasons we give include his racist comments and emails, posting of anti-Muslim and anti-democratic sentiments using his social media accounts, retaliating on people for trying to file complaints against his department, and his use of our municipal email system to lie about, denigrate, and dehumanize us to his entire department.

Contact McDonough Voice Editor Michelle Langhout for evidence about Sheriff Pettigout harassing, intimidating, threatening, and retaliating on journalists, including Chief Barker’s lack of response to it.

Sheriff Nicholas Pettigout denies detainees in our jail standards-compliant medical care/clearance, even after multiple tasings. Some Black women in need of mental health services instead are brutally held down and stripped naked, traumatizing them further. The lack of compassion and competent mental and medical health services isn’t just a moral disgrace, it’s dangerous, cruel, and a violation of their rights. This situation MUST be addressed!

Officer Gavin Steiger racially profiles Black drivers; has brutalized Black women, especially; drives recklessly for “routine” traffic stops, putting others at risk. We have video of him appearing to kneel on the neck of a petite Black disabled Mother facedown on concrete, hands cuffed behind her, as she was tased in the back. A petition to have the (false) charges against her dropped is now over 46.7k signatures at A transcript of a jail staffer explaining on video that Steiger’s wrongful detainment of another Black woman for the “crime” of calling 911 to ask for a police supervisor is available on YouTube. A petition to have Officer Steiger investigated and taken off the streets is approaching 2.5k signatures. Learn more at: and

We will not apologize for demanding our community leaders take action to protect the rights, lives, and dignity of those held in custody in our facilities & detained by our police. Your reckless, libelous letter has caused our members and leaders to feel unsafe, as no doubt was your intent. Your letter is an example of the kind of good ol’ boy authoritarianism which must be exorcised from law enforcement leadership at all levels.

Our peaceful but increasingly public tactics are the free expression of our First Amendment rights to petition our government for redress of concerns. We appeal directly to voters when our leaders ignore us. Attempts to get public discussions, town halls, or on local agendas of public bodies have been met with silencing, even as more victims of racial profiling and other rights violations are coming forward.

You are to cease and desist all comments, posts, public and private expressions about our organization, myself, and our members other than to issue a public apology from your organization, recanting your statements, to the McDonough County Voice & Springfield papers.

Chris Southwood should step down immediately and issue a personal apology to the same media. Attacking women calling for help for abuses of power is yet more male abuse of power, and represents an unacceptable failure not only of leadership, but of basic decency. We have victims of these police officers in our org, and we stand with the victims.

On a personal note, as a former paramedic and EMS Instructor, your appalling behavior degrades the good professionals in policing. Describing me as a “Racial Justice Princess” (which the newspaper removed from the printed letter) is a racist, gendered, ad hominum attack displaying shocking immaturity and lack of professionalism, especially coming from a state union president.

We are confident time, independent investigation from outside state and federal agencies, and history will redeem us, and our calls for change, to those who matter. I’m proud of our org’s work and our members, and they deserved better from a group which claims to be a “union” and any so-called union “leader.” We likely aren’t the first group of women you’ve tried to harm this way, but we hope your organization will do some internal soul-searching to ensure we’re the last.

Do Better, IL FOP. Our Children Are Watching.

Respectfully Submitted,

Heather McMeekan, president
Democratic Women of McDonough County

#misogyny #intimidation #retaliation #InvestigativeActivism #IL18 #BlackLivesMatter #RacialJustice #DWMC