The [Wednesday] Papers
"After weeks of worsening revelations about the Chicago Police Department's elite Special Operations Section, a beleaguered interim superintendent finally the pulled the plug Tuesday, disbanding the scandal-plagued unit and sending most of the officers back to more strictly supervised assignments," the Tribune reports this morning.
The move comes just 10 days after Mayor Daley said the department needed the unit to combat gangs, drugs and guns.
On September 29th, the Tribune reported that "Mayor Richard Daley voiced support Friday for the Chicago Police Department's elite special operations section, despite recurring problems involving alleged rogue behavior by officers and a videotape that raises troubling new questions.
"An entire unit cannot be condemned because of the wrongdoing of a few, just like a neighborhood should not be tarred by the presence of gang members among its residents, Daley said.
"And the mayor gave no hint of disbanding SOS, saying that the Police Department needs specialized units. SOS officers are dispatched to hot spots around the city.
"'You have gangs, drugs and guns,' he said. 'Those are specialized areas. You have to have certain units like that.'"
But interim superintendent Dana Starks said yesterday that "The reorganization of SOS has been in the works for the last two months," according to the Tribune.
"[Starks] added that the move was his call, and that he notified Mayor Richard Daley on Tuesday after he made the decision."
That seems unlikely, but if true Starks just blew any chance he had of retaining the job permanently.
"Daley, who had staunchly defended keeping SOS after the most recent revelations in the scandal, had no comment."
Funny how he sometimes falls mute. Must be a medical condition.
Maintaining the unit was untenable.
The Trib, for example, reports today that "One high-ranking commander said that recently SOS officers testifying in court were 'getting eaten alive' by defense attorneys merely by association with the unit."
Well, not merely by association. If SOS officers are perjuring themselves by filing false police reports, a whole lotta cases are on their way to being thrown out (more than a hundred already, according to one report.)
Meanwhile, the Sun-Times reports that "The criminal investigation of the once-elite Special Operations Section 'goes high' into the ranks."
"'Yes, we struggled to meet demand, but we distributed throughout the day,' race spokeswoman Marianne Caponi said. 'Obviously there are runners who went through aid stations and didn't get fluids. I can't really comment on the difference."
The failure of marathon officials to face up to their shortcomings is stunning. Their nonsensical stance could hardly be more at odds with what racers and volunteers actually experienced.
"Volunteer Sharon Pines said she was surprised to learn race officials already have completed their investigation. Pines said she and other volunteers at the mile-10 aid station 'ran out of everything' and had to reuse cups from the ground," the Trib story says. "They took a cooler to a nearby restaurant three times to replenish water needed to make Gatorade, she said.
"Though the aid-station captain might have been interviewed, Pines said, he probably couldn't have provided a complete picture of the chaos as exasperated runners arrived, some with tears streaming down their faces, because they couldn't get fluids."
Of course, the mayor is typically in denial as well (though privately he may be seething).
"'I'm not ready to jump on [race director Carey Pinkowski's] back," Daley said. "You do that. That's your job. My job is to say that they needed more water, yes. And he admitted that.'
"In fact," the Sun-Times reports, "Pinkowski has said organizers provided water but hadn't anticipated runners pouring it over themselves instead of drinking it."
Well, like Daley says, the media's job is to gather the facts. His job is to twist them to his liking.
"Asked point-blank if he was embarrassed by the bad publicity, Daley said, 'No. No, I'm not. You do that all the time. That's your job to do bad publicity.'"
I saw this exchange on Chicago Tonight and I can report that the press corps just sat there and took it instead of asking, say, if the mayor thought it was the job of runners and volunteers to also deliver bad publicity just to spite him.
Finally, Daley declared that "It has a great history, the marathon has."
Yes, like last year when "they made a dumb mistake placing a slick, promotional decal on the pavement just in front of the finish line on a moist Sunday morning," as Eric Zorn wrote.
"Winner Robert Cheruiyot of Kenya hit one of those decals with his right foot just a stride away from breaking the ceremonial banner and it might as well have been a banana skin. His feet came out from under him and his head hit the pavement as he slid through the finish line."
"[W]hat everyone seems to have glossed over is Chicago's greatest asset - its people," the paper said in an editorial today. "We make passing references to our 'City of Big Shoulders' tag, but go to any other metropolitan city and see how many locals are eager to point you in the right direction."
Yes, Chicago is known for its friendliness. Why, just look at our police department!
And God knows they don't take kindly to strangers in Kansas City and Milwaukee. In fact, spectators at marathons in other cities never gather alongside the course and hand out water! We're special!
"'I would rather be the underdog than the first person' at this point, Daley said. 'That would be very bad.'"
Yes, it would be very bad to be leading the competition right now!
The mayor didn't explain why, and reporters didn't seem to ask, but it begs the question: So Chicago officials have tried to not be in the lead so far because that would not be a good thing?
The Beachwood Tip Line: Our greatest asset.
Posted on October 10, 2007
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