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The [Wednesday] Papers

"The rancor between Chicago's top police official and the union that represents rank-and-file officers continued to escalate on the eve of a protest planned for today outside police headquarters," the Tribune reports.

"Leaders for the Fraternal Order of Police called on officers and their families to march at 10 a.m. to police headquarters at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue to protest what they called Weis' lack of leadership."

I've never been a fan of Weis, but if forced to choose between him and the FOP I'd take Weis eight days a week.

"[I]n a recent article, a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) noted that, as Superintendent, '[I] could have run this department the way it's supposed to be run,' but that '[I] didn't,'" Weis wrote in a letter to the Sun-Times that was published on Monday. "There are some - including, presumably, the leadership of the FOP - who believe that the way 'the department is supposed to be run' was to continue 'business as usual.'"

Weis is right about that. The FOP is an obstacle to reform.

Nonetheless, Weis has been ineffectual for a host of reasons, including his personal style, his FBI pedigree and lack of policing experience, his outsider status, and some leadership deficiencies.

But Richard M. Daley has to take some of the blame for putting Weis in a hole to begin with; the mayor went outside the usual hiring process (surprise) to secretly (surprise) pick Weis for the job without being able to articulate (surprise) why.

Making him the city's highest-paid employee didn't help, and Weis should have been smart enough to refuse such an outsized paycheck if he really wanted to build good will with his officers - and the public.

Weis was supposed to be a transformational figure brought in to clean up the messes made by Daley's previous police chiefs and usher the most ossified part of city government into a modern era. Instead, he'll end up a transition figure who - at best - set the table for the next guy, likely someone with a broad enough palette to satisfy both the rank-and-file and the reformers.

*

"Chief among [the protesting cops'] complaints is how manpower in Chicago's 25 police districts has suffered from officers being detailed to other assignments," the Trib report says.

This appears to confirm the rumblings I've heard that long-promised, long-denied beat realignment has actually become a de facto, um, fact - and that it's been done outside of public view and beyond the reach of the objecting city council.

This is the right thing to do but the wrong way to do it.

Simply put, population patterns as well as (more importantly) trends in the locations of crimes change, but the police department's deployment of manpower does not. Why? Because aldermen of both white and affluent (sometimes non-white, let's note) wards do not want to lose cops even if that means more needy areas need them more. Of course, one solution would be to simply hire more cops and assign them - or shift others - to the areas that need them most. It seems, though, as if Daley would rather privatize the police force than hire more officers - or increase their pay satisfactorily. The mayor is as responsible, if not more, for low morale in the department as anyone. No constituency, including poor African Americans, hates him more.

Beat realignment is a matter of public policy that should be done publicly and formally - not just in the interests of democracy but in the interests of effectiveness. But that's not how Daley's Chicago works.


*

The media, of course, is also complicit in this mess. Lionizing Lt. John L. Andrews is a mistake. I don't remember him speaking out about the deep well of corruption inside the department that brought Weis here. Now he's discovered office politics.

His complaints strike common refrains among the most recalcitrant cops.

"When incoming Superintendent Jody Weis arrived on the scene in Chicago, the CPD was already suffering from very low morale, most notably from the Special Operations Section (SOS) and Abbate scandals that were highlighted repeatedly in the mass media," he wrote on his blog. "The hard working and honest police officers of this city were being unfairly painted with the broad brush of these two issues."

So morale was low not because of the scandals, but because of the media's coverage of the scandals. Yup.

And, of course, Andrews invokes William Cozzi, the rallying cry of discontented cops everywhere.

"Weis's first fatal flaw as Superintendent was to flex his muscles in a misguided demonstration of 'Federal oversight' of the CPD in what has become 'The Cozzi Incident.' Without going into the well known details here, Weis facilitated a Federal prosecution of a police officer AFTER the officer already had been prosecuted at the State level and received severe administrative discipline from the CPD. Many believed that Cozzi had already been punished, both legally and administratively for his misconduct. Many also believed that while Cozzi's conduct in the incident was not acceptable, it did not rise to the level that warranted an additional Federal prosecution, as was the case with the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles. This single action by Weis was viewed by the rank & file of the department as excessive and draconian. The result was an instant and unrecoverable alienation of Weis from the members of the Chicago Police Department."

In other words, Andrews and his pals wanted Cozzi to keep his job.

"It took an indictment from federal prosecutors to get Cozzi off the force," Tracy Siska of the Chicago Justice Project explained to WBEZ.

Also, he had committed a federal crime. Whatever happened to being tough on crime?

(The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals just upheld Cozzi's conviction and 40-month sentence.)

And for an officer so concerned about the well-being of the department, the name Jon Burge appears nowhere on his blog. Thought he might have an opinion.

A few weeks after the Burge trial, though, Andrews did tweet this: "What exactly is a domestic terrorist? Perhaps you better think about that for a minute before the government labels YOU as one."

I don't have any reason to believe he was referring to Burge - which is just the problem.

So far, reporters are giving Andrews a free pass without really inquiring into his beliefs about the department and its practices. And he's free to have those beliefs. I just don't think he should be held up as a brave man speaking truth to power.

For example, I don't find a lot of truth in his view that Chicago is a city "at war with itself" and "fast-tracking to anarchy."

Despite the media propagating the myth that crime is atypically out of control, surging and unloosed - the facts state the exact opposite.

Of course, we could have a reasoned discussion of such vital issues as crime and policing if we lived in a democratic city. As the Chicago Justice Project recently found, just 1 percent of agenda items for the city council's police committee from 2006 to 2009 had anything to do with crime and violence.

When policy-making - and even the choice of a police chief - occurs behind closed doors, what seeps out are half-truths, lies and delusions. That seems to be what we're seeing here, and all sides are guilty.

Today's Beachwood
Chock full of goodness!

* Live! Pavement at Pritzker

* Whitney: Fair Taxes For All

* The Blue & Orange Kool-Aid Report

* Tindall on Kindle!

* Wall Street Bloodsuckers

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: The fast track.



Permalink

Posted on September 15, 2010


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BOOKS - America, We Need To Talk.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Beachwood Photo Booth: Wyoming, Michigan.


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