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The [Monday] Papers

"With police hiring slowing to a crawl and Chicago homicides outpacing New York and Los Angeles, Police Supt. Jody Weis vowed Friday to deliver on a promise made and broken by at least four of his predecessors: beat realignment," the Sun-Times reported over the weekend.

"'They haven't been moved around since 1978. That's three decades of people making empty promises. Nothing against my predecessors, but at some time, you've got to look at a problem and say, I know I can't make every one of the 50 aldermen happy, but we have to make sure we have the right resources in the right locations,' Weis said. 'I'm 100 percent committed to that . . . I know we'll upset some people. But we have to have fair police service to every community'."

Weis is right, of course. But two observations: First, it wasn't just his predecessors who made empty promises. It was the mayor himself. And second, he has now acknowledged that the police department has not been providing services fairly to every community. Guess which ones have been on the short end of the stick?

"If we move people into other districts and other wards, we've got to take from some other place," he said. "... I want it to be based on factors that ensure all citizens ... get equal police coverage based upon the threat that they're facing."

Again, this is an acknowledgment that police coverage has not been based on the crime threat. In fact, it's been the reverse.

Finally, there is a way to avoid reducing police services in some districts and wards in order to deploy services where they are needed most: hire more cops to fill the gaps.

*

Weis's statements came at a city council budget hearing. In the Tribune's coverage, beat realignment was only accorded the final sentence in its article:

"Weis also said he is still looking at realigning city district beats, something the city hasn't done since 1978. But he doesn't have a target date yet for that."

*

From The Papers, March 20, 2006: "The media as a whole, for example, refuses to adequately explore the issue of realigning police beats according to where crime actually occurs."

Tracking Torture
"To our discredit, too many of us left Burge alone for years," Carol Marin wrote on Sunday.

She goes on to remind us that the evidence was staring the city - and the mayor in the face. It wasn't just the letter from Richard Brzeczek that Richard M. Daley (and Dick Devine) ignored.

"A few years after the [Andrew] Wilson revelations, the then-head of the Office of Professional Standards, the watchdog over police misconduct, raised serious questions about the electro-shocking of suspects," Marin noted.

"When told, the Chicago Police Department did nothing.

"In 1990, OPS investigator Michael Goldston catalogued 50 cases of alleged police torture. The department suppressed his report and made Goldston's life a living hell. Thanks to a court order, the report was finally made public in 1992.

"It was front-page news for a minute. But nobody, including the mainstream press, law enforcement, state or federal prosecutors or the judiciary did much of anything to demand answers."

And there was the U.S. attorney's office before Patrick Fitzgerald - and the Clinton Justice Department.

"[Lawyer Flint] Taylor had meetings in 1989 with federal prosecutors in Chicago and with then-Attorney General Janet Reno back in the '90s. A delegation that included U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and Judge R. Eugene Pincham went to Washington to talk to her.

"'We told her about torture,' Taylor said last week. 'She was very attentive but noncommittal.' She was hardly alone, he said. 'Everybody since Reagan passed on it'."

Marin asked Taylor why.

"My instinct is that racism, pro-police bias and bias in terms of poor black suspects, made it something that the press and prosecutors didn't want to deal with," he said.

Two observations: First, this is another example of the difference betweeen Patrick Fitzgerald and the typical insiders who usually hold his post. I'm fairly certain that Fitzgerald - who has the undying respect of street cops - would have pursued these allegations aggressively back then. And many U.S. attorneys would not have pursued Burge on a perjury charge now.

Second, Taylor's explanation is largely right. In newsrooms that are supposed to be street-smart and skeptical of official claims, many reporters (and more so, their editors) remain naive and direct their skepticism toward those who would puncture the childhood myths of how authorities behave. I am grateful every day for the kind of training I received as a young reporter, including an editor early in my career who once told me "It's always ten times worse than you think it is." That's the way the media should proceed in its reporting, even when it doesn't turn out to be true. But it usually does.

Torture Today
Did Jon Burge leave a legacy?

"The news this week that former Police Commander Jon Burge has been indicted on federal charges nearly thirty years after the alleged crimes is very important," Tracy Jake Siska writes at Chicago Justice. "This long overdue prosecution exposes the striking, continuous, and deliberate refusal by the accountability departments within the agencies, policy makers, the media, and the courts, to focus their attention on what occurs inside Chicago Police interrogation rooms. The reporting of the indictment relies on retrospective coverage of the abuse that occurred at the hands of the Chicago Police Department. However, the discussion fails to evaluate if Burge's tactics are part of history or if they have only been refined for modern use."

Siska offers up a case study, and concludes:

"For all the bellowing about the fact that more should have been done twenty years ago to stop Burge, nothing is being done to stop the illegal and abusive tactics of today."

Ferdy Film Frenzy
Continuing our blurbing of Marilyn Ferdinand's coverage of the Chicago International Film Festival. Go to Ferdy on Films for full reviews and details.

"Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story: Lee Atwater - the man who called Strom Thurmond his mentor and Karl Rove his protege - gets a thorough going-over in Boogie Man as a win-at-all-costs political operative for the Republican Party until he died of brain cancer in 1991 at the age of 40. By the time Atwater had performed his dirty magic tricks on Reagan's behalf, he had already ruined Democrats Tom Turnipseed's and Max Heller's bids for Congress by charging that the former was "hooked up to jumper cables" (mentally ill), and running a independent Christian candidate to slam Heller for being a Jew and having this straw candidate drop out after the damage was done, thereby leaving the door open for Republican candidate Carroll Campbell to win.

"There are subtle, but damning commentaries on the media in this film, particularly the Washington press corps, which one interviewee characterizes as lazy and looking for something juicy. Bush Jr. hit it off famously with Atwater and certainly would have had Atwater ensure that his 2000 race against Al Gore was not so close had Atwater lived. As it is, the press corps did Atwater's job for him, having learned how those well-chosen lies and steadfast adherence to a narrative can sell newspapers, make careers, and garner power."

Here is the trailer:

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: Hynotized and mesmerized.



Permalink

Posted on October 27, 2008


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