I talk to approximately 80 people a day about all sort of legal issues. I’d say 1% of those people are crazy and another 1% are just downright awful people. The crazy ones think that Oprah is watching them through the TV or that the Chicago police have planted a chip in their brain to follow them. Those are sad situations that are probably above my head as far as how to handle them. But that’s ok, I can deal with that stuff on my own.
The 1% that are terrible people on the other hand, will make clear to me that they don’t care what the law is, don’t care what the moral thing is, and instead just want some advice on how to screw over the person they have a problem with. One of the nice things about being an attorney is that you don’t have to help everyone who comes through the door and are free to reject any client you want to reject. So usually I tell these people that I don’t think we are a good fit for what they want to do and I can’t help them. That usually works, but not always.
The other day a guy called me with child support questions. Basically he didn’t think it was fair that he had to pay for a kid that he wanted nothing to do with. When I told him that his relationship with the child doesn’t impact what he would owe, he wanted to know how much it would cost to get custody. I told him the price, but said nobody I know could get him custody because he’s never had a relationship with the child. I didn’t mention that the fact he has no interest in being a father wouldn’t help either. Basically he was looking for a loophole out of having to pay.
He then said, “It would be easier to just kill the bitch.” I let him know that was an awful thing to say, that I reject that type of talk and I was going to end the call. He then told me what a piece of you-know-what I was, and told me that after he was done killing her, he was going to come and get me. I’ve been threatened many times over the years – that will happen when you’ve talked to more than 250,000 people on the phone. But this guy was persistent and kept calling back, demanding my address (it’s 1060 W. Addison for anyone who’s looking), making racial comments as well as saying many other things that he suspected about my sexual orientation. He did keep on threatening to shoot me, so I called 911. What a joke that was.
The dispatcher was very nice and took my call seriously. I let her know that this person, whose number I had (and I was pretty sure I know the name), kept calling with threats that seemed serious. While there is great security in my building, I felt that a 911 call was warranted. The dispatcher told me it was smart to call and said she was going to get an officer on the line that could take care of it. That all sounded good to me. I assumed that a call from the officer would get this guy to stop and in the very least if he’d know that if he did something they’d be looking for him.
Whatever officer I was connected to did not want to be bothered. She took a hostile approach to me and questioned everything I said. When I described the caller as an African-America male she basically yelled, “How do you know that he’s African-American?” I let her know he referenced it when he was making racial comments toward me, but she didn’t care about that. As soon as I told her that I was just hoping that they could make a call to him she told me that I’d have to give my address out and she’d share that with him if he wanted the information.
So in other words, I have a guy who is threatening me that doesn’t know where my office or home is. In order to file a complaint against him, I have to be willing to give him access to that information with the hopes that he won’t do anything bad with that knowledge. I’m not worried about this guy, and can handle this problem myself. But it certainly adds credence to the stories you hear of people not trusting that the police will do anything for them or that they won’t believe their stories.
If you ever see an officer testify at court and a lawyer asks them where they live, they will never answer that question and rightfully so. They don’t want criminals to know where they live. It’s a safety issue. Yet for the general public, safety and common sense goes out the window. If the cop can discourage me from filing a report, that’s one less thing for her to have to deal with.
I’ve certainly seen this 911 treatment before. If you ever have your house broken in to in Chicago and call for help, you are likely going to be greeted with something like, “Well, we could send out an officer, but there won’t really be anything we can do.”
I have a great respect for police officers and the work that they do. It’s the system behind them that I have great trouble with. It’s probably too broken to be fixed. If someone is making threats of murdering two people and the police won’t help you out without risking your safety, then who will they help?
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