Police Departments are defined as a legitimate governmental body, charged with the authority to maintain order, prevent crime, and enforce the laws of of government. In other words the police agency ensures that the government remains a stable and respectable entity within society. The job of the police does not exclude ANYONE from abiding by the law. However in reality and most especially in Chicago, political influence over the police has not allowed for the realization of that theory.
County Sheriffs are elected by the people, whereas Police chiefs are appointed by the highest elected official, which of course is the case in Chicago. The grand flaw in the system is, if a person appoints you to such a position of power including a significant salary increase in the range of $200 to $300 thousand dollars annually most times the results is the focus of these officials is to appease those who put them in office.
A perfect example of this appeasement was on full display last week when Mayoral candidate and fired former Chicago top Cop Garry McCarthy said "if elected Mayor he would strive to get politics out of the Chicago Police Department." He stated the Mayor and his people were very active trying to micro manage the department. Naturally since he was fired by the Mayor, he was asked by a reporter why he didn't complain about political interference when he was Chicago's Police Superintendent. His answer tells the story. He stated that he loved the Job and wanted to keep it.
Politicians having power over the police is not anything that is new. History shows us that when Chicago's Police department was racked with scandal back in the late 50s with the Summerdale scandal where cops were actively working with a known burglar and sharing the proceeds.
Then Mayor, Richard J. Daley knew he had to save his political hide and either reform the department or risk not being elected. In a brilliant move he chose a Harvard professor and Author on Police procedures Orlando W. Wilson, as his next Police Chief. The very first thing Wilson did was move Police Headquarters out of City Hall. For the next seven to ten years, Chicago's Police department became a model for reform that was copied across the country.
To list Wilson's reforms would take a complete book. By the time he retired in 1967 Chicago's Police Department was unrecognizable. The make over and reforms were an overwhelming success from top to bottom. Most experts will agree it came about because Wilson was not bothered or annoyed by politics and had complete Carte Blanche including budgetary matters.
However after the great reformer retired it was my opinion that the old ways started to seep back in. I was there for two of the Wilson years and 30 more after him so I had a front row seat. Chicago was to meet some of its greatest challenges. War demonstrations and civil rights marches were a daily challenge to both the Police and the City's leaders. Dr King held marches into all white neighborhoods in August 1966 to protest unfair housing by Chicago's black residents.
Mayor Daley publicly called him a trouble maker. Superintendent Wilson invited Dr King to a meeting at Police Headquarters where they worked out a schedule and arranged security for the safety of the demonstrators. Then came 1968 a year that will certainly live in infamy in Chicago's history. Mayor Daley appointed a friend to head up the department after Wilson's retirement. In April of 1968 Dr King was assassinated and the City was torn with riots that included burning and looting and random violence mostly in the City's predominately black west side neighborhoods.
A frustrated Mayor gave the order to shoot and kill arsonists and to wound looters. Within minutes of that order I was on patrol when a youngster ran by me with a gum ball machine in tow. Imagine a Civilian giving an order like that? To this day I'm proud of all my brothers and sisters who defied the craziness of a clueless politician. Chicago would have been the site of another Nuremberg. No sworn Police Commander would ever give such an order.
Now we skip ahead four months to the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Thousands of anti war and civil rights demonstrators descended on the City to have their say. From August 26 thru August 29 both demonstrators and police and National Guardsman battled in the streets and in the parks. When the delegates left the Amphitheater to return to their downtown hotels the demonstrators followed by the thousands. Us Cops who were assigned to the demonstrators were working 12 hours shifts from noon to midnight.
However because of all the demonstrators that gathered in Grant Park it was our duty, ordered by Mayor Daley to empty the parks at eleven O'clock.His famous statement was "if the Wunnerful people of Chicago have to obey the park curfew by God the Hippies or Dippies will also. There you have it. Thousands of folks who in reality had no place to sleep were being driven every night out of the parks.It became a game of sorts. We would drive them out, and they would circle and run back in. This lasted for 4 to 5 hours every night until exhaustion set in on both sides and finally some feckless Police boss would tell us to go home.They did not have to pay overtime so nobody really cared about the cops and how long they worked.
Almost all of the planning for that Convention was done by the Politicians, including the role of the Cops. The overwhelming number of Command staff who were in place, were okayed by City hall, so there was little resistance to their plans. What the civilians did not know was Cops are humans, and humans in order to be at peak performance had to have proper rest, sleep, food and drink, we had none of that. In todays world water bottles are in abundance, fast food restaurants were everywhere, for thousands of Cops battling protesters very little of that was available.
The lines of cops at the park drinking water fountains was exhaustive, our meals consisted of a box lunch with a Bologna sandwich on stale white bread with either and apple or banana. On the front of the box it said "compliments of the 11th Ward Democratic organization." Indeed. A few months after the Convention a blue ribbon panel returned a scathing report that labeled the conflict a "POLICE RIOT."
There is danger when non professional's, including know it all politicians meddle into affairs they know nothing about. If just one of them would have remembered Napoleon's words "An Army marches on it's stomach." Chicago indeed needs to get politics out of it's Police Department.The beat seems to be continuing .
Bobby Kennedy once said this when he was the Attorney General of the United States. It's quoted often to this day."Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves: What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of Law enforcement it insists on" We see now that he was only half right. The Community gets the kind of Law Enforcement the Mayor decides on, by picking the police Chief he wants to run the Department.
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