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Daley and police reform

Mayor Daley told the Sun-Times that the increase in killings is attributable to police fears of civilian complaints and media coverage of police misconduct.

“It’s preposterous,” said journalist and activist Jamie Kalven.  “It’s almost hallucinatory — it’s Alice in Wonderland.”

For one thing, the kind of coverage the Mayor complains about — aside from what he terms “beating up police” by airing video of a drunken off-duty officer beating up a woman bartender — is nearly impossible.

Police officers are “always afraid of beefs because, once they get a beef, you write about it,” Daley told Fran Spielman, reciting an imaginary press account: “‘He has 25 C.R. numbers [complaints registered], all unfounded.’ You say, ‘Why? This fella must be a problem’. And you find out most of them are gangbangers and dope dealers [who] filed charges. And they didn’t show up in court or administrative hearings.”

But no one’s informed when a complaint is filed against a particular officer.

Those kinds of numbers are only available in the course of criminal trials and other legal proceedings against rogue police officers — most often after prosecutors have decided “this fella must be a problem” — as Kalven points out.  He’s sued the city for documents on police misconduct including a list of officers with over ten complaints.  In that case, the city has appealed a federal court order to release the documents; a hearing before an appeals court panel took place last month.

Information about numbers of complaints against specific officers have become public in the trial of Englewood District officers who were dealing drugs, and in the Special Operations Section case, where seven officers are charged with false arrest and robbery.  In the SOS case, the criminal charges are similar to hundreds of civilian complaints against the same officers that were deemed “unfounded” by the police department.

The Tribune has reported on two memos by internal affairs investigators decrying the lack of investigation into charges against the same officers.   One of the investigators was reassigned to desk duty.  The director who ordered the transfer is now Superintendent Jody Weis’s legal counsel.

Kalven’s motion stipulates that complainants names will be excised from the documents.  Obviously, no one can check the Mayor’s contention that “most of [the complainants] are gangbangers and dope dealers.”

In the SOS case, the victims were two factory workers.  In the case which led to Kalven’s lawsuit, a tactical squad had compiled many complaints, mainly from women who lived in public housing.  The city settled that case for a large sum of money.  (Read about it at viewfromtheground.com.)

Daley’s comments are insulting to police and to citizens who file complaints, Kalven said.

“He’s accusing police officers of highly unprofessional behavior” if he says “they’re sitting on their heels when they could be preventing homicides.”  He’s “not regarding them as conscientious professionals with a vocation of public service.”  And he’s suggesting such unprofessional behavior “is in some way justified by any small degree of transparency.”

And it’s “so insulting to citizens — and there are thousands of them — to dismiss people who have been disturbed or appalled by encounters with the police…who expect police to perform to high standards and who are prepared to discharge their responsibility as citizens and make complaints through official channels.”

Working in the CHA’s Stateway Gardens, Kalven says he “had to really work hard to persuade people to make complaints” because “everybody knew [the Office of Professional Standards] was a joke….The whole point of OPS was that there were no consequences.  Everybody knew it, the cops knew and the people on the street surely knew it.”  (See last year’s post on a study of investigations into police misconduct.)

Ultimately Daley’s outburst undercuts everything he’s said and done in the last couple years — including replacing OPS with the Independent Police Review Authority — in response to calls for an effective and transparent system of police accountability.

Weis and IPRA administrator Ilana Rosenzweig have been meeting with communities urging people to call with complaints of police misconduct, Kalven said.  “The Mayor’s really subverting what they’re trying to do,” he said.

“Who’s going to bring complaints when the Mayor says that if you complain, you’re probably a drug dealer or a gang banger?” asks Kalven.

Kalven’s not a foe of law and order — he’s concerned about those police officers who disregard the law, and in so doing undermine respect for law.  “A relatively small number of officers who engage in corruption and abuse can alienate whole regions of the city from civil authority.”

How about Mayor Daley?

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Category: criminal justice, police

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One Response

  1. […] remains possible.  How this proceeds could indicate whether Mayor Emanuel chooses to continue the Daley administration’s practice of stonewalling on public accountability for abusive […]


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