I recently witnessed a crime. Because this crime was relatively serious, and because I might have mild paranoiac tendencies to begin with, I'm not going to go into any details here about the incident itself. What I'm going to share with you instead is my experience with the Chicago Police Department.
I would not say I am naive. I tend to trust that everyone's motivations are pure and that people, generally, have the best of intentions. So when, in our gritty urban environment, I hear neighbors, colleagues, friends, and the media complain about the Chicago Police, I frown, confident that the criticisms must be unfounded. And while I can't speak to the broadest (and most serious) criticisms, I can now speak to the CPD's approach to witnesses, and can only imagine their interactions with victims.
I have dialed 911 exactly twice in my life: When I was in a car accident on I-80 two summers ago, I called and was greeted with a helpful and disarmingly (and not unpleasantly) patronizing "911, what's your emergency?" as if the operator had been trained by my television. I was kept calm, given instructions, and help arrived quickly. When I dialed 911 the second time (after witnessing the aforementioned crime), I was greeted with a mumble, as if the operator were working the complaint hotline for a recalled stove. I understand how difficult his job must be; I am sure there is a good deal of managing inane calls from citizens whose neighbors won't turn the music down. But for those of us in actual SITUATIONS, a little professional courtesy might go a long way. As I narrated (in real time) the incident, the operator remained largely silent, occasionally interjecting to repeat a question he'd asked several times -- a question which I could not answer at that time. When the incident was over, I noted this to the operator and we ended our call.
I wish I could tell you I heard sirens or a knock on my door indicating help had arrived. But I heard neither (I later learned, NOT FROM THE POLICE, that the situation had been pursued). When the police called me back to confirm my call, that confirmation was the sole purpose of said call and the only additional interaction I had with the police. I was asked 4 very basic questions (my name, whether I'd made the call, whether I knew anyone involved, and whether I had myself been involved) and then -- I KID YOU NOT -- I was told "We're done here." And then a click.
Concerned for my own safety (and most secure when I have every piece of information possible), I have since tried to learn the outcome of my call, but to no avail. There have been shift changes, and delays in processing, and general bureaucratic humdrubbery standing in the way of my learning any bit of information that might make me feel more secure. The one detail I'll add is that this crime did take place in Hyde Park, and I'm certain I don't need to spell out how highly I value a sense of security in my own neighborhood.
So that's it, then. I hate to think the police have been less than ideally thorough, and I really hate to feel dismissed, but instead of feeling like I did my community a service by reporting a crime that could have taken place unnoticed, I feel like I made a mistake by even calling the police. Not only did they seem to care little about the crime itself, they seemed to care even less about my feeling safe in my community.
Am I off base here? Am I thinking too far back to middle-school D.A.R.E. programs and the officer who made me feel personally protected? Am I putting too much stock in the uniform? Does the police department have a responsibility to citizens to make them feel safe? A responsibility to witnesses to disclose outcomes? People, I am feeling jaded and I'm not certain it suits me.
Filed under: Hyde Park News