old heroes

20 07 2007

It’s a disgusting world we live in when the forces that are meant to keep us safe are the most corrupt and dirty of them all.

Case in point: Today’s article in The New York Times on the Chicago police department. The article is just another in a long string of never-ending stories about police brutality in America, although it does have some startlingly new statistics.

The story mentions a list of more than 600 officers (no, I didn’t accidentally add a zero to the end) who have had more than 10 civilian complaints filed against them in a five-year period. The list, uncovered by journalist Jamie Kalven, is being kept under wraps by lawyers who don’t see what good it would do to exploit police officers who wouldn’t be able to defend themselves. The Times got their hands on a copy of the list and reported:

…four officers had 50 or more citizen complaints filed against them in the five-year period, beginning roughly in 2001.

Of those, one complaint resulted in a 15-day suspension and two prompted reprimands. The officer with the greatest number of complaints, 55, did not receive any disciplinary action. Twenty-nine additional officers each had 30 to 40 complaints against them; of those, two were given reprimands and two received one-day suspensions.

Most officers on the list had 11 to 20 complaints.

Kind of makes you think of 1993, when Chicago police chief Jon Burge was finally removed for getting Black suspects to confess by taking them into interrogation rooms and torturing them until they signed confession papers. These confessions — which were obtained in dark rooms where suspects were kicked, beaten, and electro-shocked on their ears and genitals — often led to death sentencing. And Jon Burge alongside his police department did that for more than 20 years before he was finally fired from the police force.

Of course, many of the police officers Burge worked with are still in the force today. And old habits die hard.

So today we still have corrupt police officers in the system, and a lot of evidence to back it up (not to mention lots of angry citizens). For instance:

An off-duty officer was caught on videotape beating a female bartender. In another incident, also captured on videotape, a group of off-duty officers was seen beating four businessmen at a downtown bar. In addition, several officers in an elite unit are awaiting trial on charges that include home invasion, theft and armed violence, as county prosecutors continue to investigate the unit.

So finally the city has spoken out and decided to do something about it. An ordinance was passed in City Council yesterday, 48-0. To which Mayor Richard M. Daley (one of my 10 least favorite Americans) said, “Some people believe we don’t need this kind of reform. Others believe we haven’t gone far enough. We need to take this step and give it time to work.” Really, Mr. Daley? Who exactly are these people who don’t believe we need this kind of reform, I wonder? Considering even the most conservative alderpeople voted in FAVOR of this kind of reform, I can’t help but question your statement.

Mr. Daley is, of course, talking about Chicago policemen. They’re certainly not pleased at all this bad press they’ve been getting recently, and frankly, Mr. Daley isn’t, either. He’s doing everything in his power to keep the newspapers from reporting on this too heavily. That way, he can maintain that sparkling clean Chicago image that he’s kept up for so long, dutifully sweeping everything that doesn’t shine, look beautiful, or make more than $80,000 a year under the rug.

It took a lot of grassroots organizing to get Jon Burge ousted from the Chicago Police Department in the ’90s, and in order to make that organization happen, the media had to pay a lot of attention. Similarly, to clean up the police system which has been corrupt since its beginning, it is crucial to abandon the whole everything’s-peachy act and let the public know what is its business. If the major bad guys on the 600-name list didn’t want to get into trouble, they should have treated their positions with more respect from the get-go. Now they’re in danger of becoming what all men in places of power fear becoming: Common citizens who must obey the law like everyone else.

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5 responses

20 07 2007
sphyrnatude

There is little to no hope of ever fixing the system. The people in power are, always have been, and always will be above the law.

The only realistic way to make crooked cops toe the line is to make them realize that the public simply won’t put up with their illegal activities – and also will not put up with the administrations support of such activity.

the solution is simple: When the system fails to properly penalize a crooked cop, it is up to the pulic to take over. If you count on the police, courts, and government to protect you, you hace to accept the fact taht they are more interested in protecting themselves. The most you will get is an occasional sacrificial goat – some cop that was so heinous in his actions that there is no way the other cops can cover his butt. OOther than that, it is in the courts, cops, and governments best interest to continue to pretend taht all cops are saints.

So how does the public start letting the cops know they aren’t going ot put up with the ongoing police corruption? Simple. When there is a nice open and shut case, but the cop still gets off, do the same thing the courts did: Off the cop. After a while the cops and the courts will get the idea. HOnest cops are a lot easier for the courts and government to deal with than the begining of an armed revolution.

If you take what they give you, you deserve what you get.

21 07 2007
dan l
21 07 2007
upsidedownagain

so… just for the record, I don’t think we should go around killing police men. Call me spineless if you must.

22 07 2007
sphyrnatude

I never said we should kill police officers. I said that when someone has comitted a crime, and hidden behind the badge, to avoid prosecutuion, it is the publics responsibility to deal with the issue themselves. Only in verey extreme cases should ANYONE be killed.

Cops, unfortunately or not, must be held to a higher standard than the “ordinary citizen”. While a judge/jury will assume that someone acused of a crime will lie to avoid the punishment, they will also assume that a cop is telling the truth. When it turns out that the cop isn’t, not only has the cop committed a crime, (s)he has eroded the ability of the system to function.

Cops have been caught lying in testimony so often, and with such reliability, that when I am on a jury, I ASSUME that hte cop is lying – it is the only way to actually maintain the idea of “innocent until proven guilty”. the cops have proven that their testimony is fake so often (especially if they are testifying to [protect another cop) that they have essentially proved that hey are (at best) unreliable, and at worst actually working to hide a crime, or to convict someone so that one of their buddies doen’t get charged.

23 07 2007
upsidedownagain

Unfortunate reality we face, isn’t it?

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