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The [Wednesday] Papers

Mara Georges is at it again.

Georges is the city's corporation counsel and a favorite of Mayor Daley's. And it's no wonder why.

"The City of Chicago's top lawyer has denied at least one alderman's written request to see a list of Chicago police officers who have the most excessive force complaints during the last five years, a move that critics say contradicts what the lawyer told federal judges this summer," the Tribune reports this morning.

"Corporation Counsel Mara Georges recently sent a letter to Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), denying her Aug. 23 request for an unredacted list of Office of Professional Standards complaints.

"In July, when the city was arguing in federal court to keep the documents secret, Georges assured the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals that aldermen would have access to the confidential records.

"'We have agreed to make the confidential documents available to any City Council member who requests them,' Georges declared in the city's July 13 emergency motion seeking a stay of U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow's order to unseal the records and make them available to the general public."

Now, Georges is arguing that the very stay that was granted when she made that promise prevents her from . . . keeping her promise.

"It is disappointing, but not surprising," Preckwinkle said. "It is sort of consistent with bad behavior by the corporation counsel all the way along."

Just last week, for example, John Conroy reminded us in the Reader of Georges' blatant disingenuousness.

"Georges received stunningly bad reviews for her testimony in last year's trial of Robert Sorich, the mayor's longtime patronage chief," Conroy wrote. "Georges testified that she was unaware of political influence in hiring. Jury foreman Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Tribune she was the prosecution's least credible witness, and federal judge David Coar, who presided over the trial, said, 'I found the Mara Georges position in all of this incredible.'

"But Mayor Daley likes her. After Sorich was convicted he was quoted in the Tribune saying Georges has been a 'very, very good corporation counsel . . . full of integrity, honesty, dedication.'"

Secret Police
Why does the mayor - through Georges, who doesn't make a move without him - want to keep the list of excessive force complaints secret?

Perhaps because it would blow the lid off off his rogue pet police unit. The Special Operations Section - the mayor's answer to embarrassingly high murder rates in the early 2000s - is under a burgeoning federal investigation that has already seen seven officers charged with robbery and kidnapping, as well as one, Jerome Finnigan, accused of plotting the murder of an ex-colleague. And that, insiders think, is just the tip of the iceberg.

"Although we do not yet know the full dimensions of the SOS scandal, it is clear that the monetary and institutional costs to the City will be vast," writes Jamie Kalven, whose lawsuit against the city put the secret list of wayward officers in play. "Against this background, what might we learn from the list of officers who have amassed the most civilian complaints over a five year period?

"The names of officers were blacked out on the list Ms. George [initially[ provided aldermen, but their unit numbers were included. It is thus possible, as was widely reported at the time, to determine that the top four officers on the list, each of whom have 50 or more complaints, are all members of SOS. The top ten SOS officers on the list, all of whom have 30 or more complaints, account for a total of 408 complaints over five years. Of these complaints, only three were sustained by CPD investigators. Two resulted in reprimands (among the mildest forms of discipline) and one resulted in a 15-day suspension. What would be revealed about the CPD's systems of supervision, monitoring, and discipline, if we definitively knew that Finnigan and his co-defendants are at or near the top of the list?

"There is, of course, reason to strongly suspect they are, but in the absence of the unredacted document this remains speculation."

Mayor Apples
The mayor, as always, says SOS has merely been infected by a few bad apples. He's used this defense so many times over the years about so many parts of his administration that, were he in the Mob, his nickname would be Apples.

At stake, though, is something deadly serious: His mismanagment of the CPD, which is not unlike his mismanagement of the CTA. In this regard, the Tribune let the mayor off easy the other day, aiding and abetting his lame defense of SOS by writing that they are needed apart from the rank-and-file because "On the street, patrol officers assigned to districts are constantly responding to radio commands from their supervisors and dispatchers."

That's what community policing - which doesn't really exist in Chicago, despite what you've been told - is supposed to ameliorate. The prime directive of community policing is to get officers out of their patrol cars - and out of responding to crime instead of preventing it - and onto their feet, walking beats.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't exist in my neighborhood.

Either way, it has nothing to do with special operation sections. The department still has gang units, for example.

The Tribune also wrote with a straight face that "In 2003, the department's efforts paid off in big numbers as the murder rate dropped by 25 percent, largely because of enhanced police intelligence that pinpointed neighborhoods that they then flooded with SOS and tactical teams."

The Tribune states this as fact, but I wonder how they back up that assertion. The crime rate began dropping nationally around that time, and experts are still trying to figure out why. Those are some units if they can prevent murders in Tulsa and Portland as well as Englewood and Austin.

Besides that, it's questionable whether flooding neighborhoods with tactical officers can prevent murders. It can break up drug markets - temporarily - and maybe stave off retaliatory shootings after a murder has occurred, but eventually gangs will get their revenge.

In any case, the facts do not square - big surprise - with the mayor's assertions. "In July, the Tribune reported that SOS officers accounted for a disproportionately large number of excessive force and misconduct complaints filed with the police Office of Professional Standards during the last five years."

That's not just the result of a few bad apples. Did I hear someone say, "It's Daley Time!"?

Crime Pays
"The state's attorney's office has dropped more than a hundred pending felony cases, because they were contaminated by one or another of the defendants," Kalven writes. "A large number of civil cases will inevitably be brought against the City."

And guess who will pay the settlements?

That's right, the same pigeons the mayor is already plucking even as we speak.

Reality TV
"[T]he vast majority of citizen complaints accrue to a handful of cops. Often cops on elite units, which, as any student of policing knows, are recipes for rogue behavior. The Shield, anyone?"
- Beachwood Reporter, July 19

"One of his co-defendants, Officer Thomas Sherry, boasted on his MySpace site that he was a fan of Vic Mackey, the fictional crooked cop in the TV show, The Shield."
- Sun-Times, September 30

What I Watched Last Night
* Cavemen started out pretty weak, but got better as it went along, and if the network lets it develop, I think it could be something. But they gotta get over the caveman jokes. The real twist is to simply put the cavemen into mundane daily situations and expose us humans for the failed creatures that we are.

* Carpoolers was better. In fact, it was pretty damn good. Recommended.

* If you haven't yet read our three-part fall TV preview, do it now. I'll put it up against any in the nation.

Playoff Status
According to the Zam Bomb, Big Z is Getting Angry. According to the Mount Lou Alert System, our skipper has reverted to his non-eruptive state. Not that we expect that to last long. In The Cub Factor.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Not yet rated.



Permalink

Posted on October 3, 2007


MUSIC - The Week In Chicago Rock.
TV - Trump FCC Opens Corporate Media Merger Floodgates.
POLITICS - Offshore Leaks Database.
SPORTS - Beachwood Radio: Broken Bears; Cubs' 7-Year Itch.

BOOKS - Inside The Book Of The Dead.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Lakes, Cheese & You.


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