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CPD's Real Leadership Problem

When I left the Chicago Police Department, I was one of two SWAT coordinators - called HBT (Hostage/Barricaded/Terrorist) at the time. My wife just retired in March after 34 years. I have never stopped paying attention and I loved the job.

We have heard so much about how badly we need change, and I totally agree. However, there are some things that you can only know if you were an insider and no longer have to watch your ass.

Police work is much, much different than work in the business and corporate professions in that the lowest employee makes the most important decisions, such as shoot or don't shoot, arrest or don't arrest, stop or don't stop. Those decisions reverberate up through the chain of command, whereas in the other management structures the most important decisions flow down.

The best way to understand it is management is doing things right - leadership is doing the right thing. Because of this unique quality the most important supervisor is the front line supervisor - sergeant, lieutenant - they are the ones who are closest to the cops working the street. No matter how many chiefs and deputies there are, they do not set the tone; they are not there. They can dictate policy and issue orders, but without the street supervision it will all be for nothing.

The SOS scandals proved that to a point. While those rogue cops were tossing people's houses and abusing citizens without warrants, my question always was where were their supervisors. Finnegan and his gang of cops literally ran amok and no supervisors were held accountable.

Same in the Koschman affair; where was the supervision?

This latest incidents begs the same question: Where the hell were they? Once the decision was made to call for a Taser, why didn't a supervisor institute firearm discipline? Why did the supervisors not insure that a Taser was available if there was none? Why did the supervision fail to insure that audio and video was working instead of the Acting Superintendent holding a press conference after the fact announcing that disciplinary action would be taken if in the future those measures are not obeyed?

A lot too late for sure. Who is going to ensure that his order is followed? Why, of course, the front line supervisors, who should have been doing it in the first place.

(And why did they fail to give aid to that young man while he was laying down on the street dying?)

All a complete failure of supervisors failing to do what they are well compensated for.

Now we get the call for a special panel to investigate, but those folks are outsiders and may fail to realize police supervision is different than what they are acquainted with, and the critical detail of front line supervision will vanish once again in yet another study.

I have a question: How many Tasers could that $5 million settlement have purchased? They are about 80 bucks for a good one. Money well spent but probably no supervisor even gave it a thought to insure one at least was available.

Now we have experts coming out of the walls, the mayor's new top cop, the feds, blue-ribbon type panels, when all they need to do is get ex-Superintendent Phil Cline on the panel; he's one of the finest police minds of our time, and he would tell them what I'm saying here. It was not Cline's fault that Anthony Abbate in a drunken stupor beat up that bartender, but the video was too much for Daley and he needed a goat.

I love the CPD, and I know a lot of folks do, but sometimes loving eyes don't always see.


Previously by Bob Angone:
* Crime Is Up - And Down.

* Chicago Is Not Helpless.


Editor's Note 1: I asked Bob about Cline because my recollection of his tenure was less charitable. Bob's reply: "I never knew the guy to lie."

Editor's Note 2: It's been pointed out to me that in 2004, Cline stated there was "no basis for criminal charges" in the Koschman case. Again, my view of Cline's tenure is different than Bob's view. Bob has every right to his view, but in retrospect - and with all due respect to Bob - I should have edited the end a bit differently. I apologize to readers and to Bob for not editing with more precision. The fault is all mine, not his. - Steve Rhodes

Bob responds: Your editor's view on Phil Cline was brilliant because it just points out what I was saying in the article - no matter what the leadership dictates and oversees, it still has to rely on the first line of supervision. Even though leadership starts at the top, it would be impossible for the superintendent himself to investigate all cases, even the controversial ones. The Koschman affair was under Phil's leadership; Koschman too was on Jody Weis, who also let stand the second investigation. But it was the front line supervisors who were with the investigators all through that tawdry affair.

Steve responds: You're giving me too much credit, Bob, but thank you, sir.


Bob Angone is a retired Chicago police lieutenant. He welcomes your comments.


1. From Ald. Scott Waguespack:

Thanks for that post. That's why the panel isn't complete.


Posted on December 12, 2015

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