The Blue Mile

Too Good to Be True?

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

Pardon the absence but this couldn't be more enticing:

Could it be that our fearless leader (Jody) who runs away from harm's way has tendered his resignation? Just a few of the rumblings I heard this evening inside the station amongst the white shirts on the way out. I doubt he was "asked" to resign. Just a hunch. IF it is true, don't let the door hit your ass on the way out. If I'm misinformed, your cup of safe and warm coffee will be waiting for you in your police-protected office.

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Bring your insulated gloves.











Too Good to Be True?

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

Being a Cop is the Greatest Adventure and Privilege

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

I was recently asked why I became a police officer by a loss prevention agent from a major retailer along the Gold Coast. He is slated to start the police academy in Arizona and needed some words of encouragement. Unfortunately for him, I just got burnt by a couple of dog asses who don't know how to handle jobs on their own post. So I went on a rant on how screwed up this department is and how I counted the days to retirement. On the way down the escalator and somewhat regretting my invective-laced tirade, I got a call of a noise disturbance with bucket-beaters AGAIN, not on my post.

The sidewalks are full of slush and the wind is smacking my face harder than Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Each curb is surrounded by a small lake making the crosswalk virtually inaccessible.  Next to me is a blind man named Mike who usually hangs out in front of Saks with a cup and a harmonica. I say hello and ask if he needs a hand crossing the street. He graciously accepts and I offer him my arm and we carefully cross the semi-frozen cascade. We exchange a few pleasantries and soon bid each other farewell. As soon as I turn my back, a middle-aged bald man who looks very familiar gives me a very enthusiastic thumbs up. I correspond with the same corny gesture and head towards my call.

Done with my call,I head towards Ohio and Rush to grab a bite when a woman who has visibly been crying asks me for help. She informs me that her son, who suffers from a severe mental disorder, is threatening her on a regular basis and sent her a text saying he would kill her after she discovered he was stealing her SSI checks. She lived near O'Hare airport, clearly out of my district. I managed to put her in touch with a supervisor with the department's Mental Health Crisis Intervention Team (to which I now belong) who would help her and her son sort out their problems. She hugged me and I hugged her back-something I NEVER do with strangers. After thanking me, she wiped her tears, cleared her throat and walked across the street and out of my life. She didn't want her son arrested, she just wanted someone to listen and not brush her off. Instantaneously, I received a chill down my spine. I looked up and gazed into the sky as if an icicle would hit me in the face. It was then that I realized where I was; I stood in the same place an eighteen year old kid plummeted to his death nearly 7 years earlier. The young man who died on that fateful day left no note as to why he needed to end his life.

This parking structure has been the site of several suicide attempts since I've been patrolling the area. I've been lucky enough to pull a boy off a ledge of the same parking structure without falling myself.  His grief was reportedly from a recent break-up.  Love, indeed, is a many splendored thing.

My friend from loss prevention joined me at the gun range a couple of days later. I told him about what was going through my head when I decided I was going to become a police officer. I told him that I originally signed on because I wanted to help people and stand up for those who otherwise go through life being victimized. Somewhere along the lines, I lost track of what I was doing, who I affect with my decisions, and the importance of focus and priorities. Yet, it is people like the blind man who needs help crossing the street, the heartbroken kid who wants to kill himself, the woman tormented by her mentally ill son, the little girl separated from her family lost along Michigan Avenue, or the boy who falls and scrapes his knees while running from bullies at school who all remind me why I wear this badge and carry the gun.

We left the range that afternoon with a new sense of respect for each other. I see in him what I saw in myself back when I was 21 and new to the department and he sees in me what he wants to be after becoming a seasoned veteran.

Or at least that's what he told me.

Went home that evening and watched stupid, greedy people turn down guaranteed money on some crazy program called Deal Or No Deal. The minute I saw the host jaw jacking with some lazy housewife I knew immediately who he was. A "thumbs up" from Howie Mandel along Michigan Avenue is almost as good as returning a seductive smile from Eva Longoria.

Almost.

Why I Can't Stand the Police

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

Not a day goes by that I don't hear somebody bad mouth the police. I usually bite my tongue and let this person vent because some of the things they say are quite accurate and introspective. As painstaking as it is for me to stand there and take the criticism, I often retort politely, make a few counterpoints, and walk away feeling I could have gone on for an hour or so about some of the challenges and perils we face on a daily basis. But that's not what this entry is about. This entry is dedicated to the hard working men and women of the police department. It should also serve as a giant "screw you" to the cops who continuously and ritualistically run this job into the ground while most of us have no choice but to roll with the punches. We are the cause of many of our own problems and today I'm taking off the gloves. Code of silence:unofficially rescinded.

Dogs .After roll call is over, most cops go and grab a bite before things get busy. They'll even do it while things are hectic and expect other cops to cover for them while they get second helpings of chili mac. Meanwhile, Michigan Avenue is blowing up with calls and the jobs that are supposed to be handled by these dogs go into the queue and more than likely are given to beat cars coming from quite a distance. Finish your meals in a timely manner and drag your hungover asses out of the hotel cafeterias to handle things on your post!

30-35 minutes for lunch?
 
Sure.

60 minutes?

Do us all a favor. Quit and join the fire department. I hear they make a wicked bowl of chili.

Cheapskates. When I'm patrolling the Gold Coast, I know I'm going to eat well. There are top notch steak houses, as well as many Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Italian restaurants. The list is almost endless. I've walked into many of these restaurants and upon finishing my meal was handed the bill. I never expect comps or discounts but it's great when I get them. Some store owners are absolute godsends and are kind enough to comp my meal. I've left the waiter or server a good tip and always personally thank the management. However, there are cops who expect this treatment all the time and everywhere they go. I've personally known cops to go to these restaurants off-duty and bring their entire families and expect freebies. Their names are etched on station bathroom walls and locker rooms. I feel embarrassed as word gets around and I tend to steer clear of that establishment because of some other idiot's desire to save a few bucks. After the humiliation subsides, I have attempted damage control with this and made some headway. "A good cop is never cold or hungry: if you are, you're probably working too hard." I get it, seriously, but the cops who go to the same restaurant repeatedly and make their way into the kitchen and literally start helping themselves to food to bring home really need to reconsider their careers.

Officer Unfriendly. Every job has its perks no matter how bad it seems. Every industry has its unspoken privileges. I know a few people in the entertainment industry who get comped at nightclubs when they present their business cards to the door staff. Good for them! They  deserve it. Firemen and police officers from New York and Boston come down to Chicago for the annual St. Patrick's day Parade and usually get carted around, pub to pub by us. Again, they deserve it. Needless to say, there's always that one cop out there who never heard of professional courtesy. Every district typically has that one rogue officer who is vehemently opposed to giving anyone, including fellow officers, a break when it comes to parking or traffic enforcement.(Let me be clear. I am not condoning drinking and driving by anyone, especially us.) This is probably the guy who was stuffed into lockers as a freshman in high school or toilet training issues. The stories are endless and I guarantee that if you asked any cop you know if this goes on, he or she will undoubtedly and reluctantly admit that it does. We had guys like this when I came on almost two decades ago. We handled it like men in the parking lot after our tours were over.

God, I miss the old days.

Coming soon: Why I love being the police.
  

 

 
 

 


Five Reasons You May Loathe Police Officers

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

So you're running late to your daughter's ballet recital. You curse everyone and anyone who slows your progress in traffic. A cop car rolls up next to you at the same red light with which you are visibly frustrated. Andy Griffith and Barney Fife turn on the Mars lights of the squad car and casually drive through the intersection. Laughing.

Pissed off yet? Take a number. Here are the top five reasons I've taken from a very unscientific and unofficial poll as to why people hate cops.

1. Abuse of authority. You've seen it time and time again. Rogue cops taking out their aggressions, violently, on the same demographic and apparently getting away with it. Cover-ups and a long backlog of complaints practically guarantee a freebie. The installation of cameras on corners were supposed to monitor illegal activities by anyone, even cops, but who's going to man the cameras in a department already under-manned? Good luck!

2. Never around when you need them.  Been a victim of crime lately? How long did you wait for anyone to show up? Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes? We'd rather watch the last quarter of the playoffs or hot women/men at North Avenue Beach than give you a report for having your wallet stolen from your purse. Betcha won't leave that purse hanging over your chair again, will you? We've got fifteen-minute breaks to eat a quick bite and it's cut short because all the other cars are down on some "unavoidable traffic stop". So, a cop has to leave the first meal of his day at 2 p.m. half-eaten. That's got a "This better be a freakin' emergency" response written all over it.
 
Customer satisfaction not guaranteed.

3. Nothing better to do.   7:01 p.m. Turning right on red after the designated time has expired. Cool, right? Not so fast tough guy. The lights and sirens go off behind you and Roscoe P. Coltrane is signaling for you to pull your '82 Le Baron which is coincidentally held together by more duct tape than a redneck's septic tank. Cop's thinking, "If this dimwit has car insurance, I'll go home tonight and tell my wife her cooking is the best I've ever had." Cop asks for your driver's license, which you stupidly forgot in your girlfriend's apartment. He also insists on seeing proof of insurance, which you haven't had since since your wife left you for your brother and took you to court for child support. All you can say is "Officer, it's 7:01. The sign says no turns from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m." Long uncomfortable pause. Cop's writing something and really taking his time. It's your three tickets. Cop replies with the coldest stare you've ever seen, "My watch reads 6:59". "Don't you guys have anything better to do?" you cry. His response: No. Have a good night.

Moral compass? Not here.

4. Incompetence.   Bank robbery in progress. Three men in ski masks with guns. Police respond with lights and sirens all the way. Upon arriving, the cops pull up to the bank and directly in front and rear of a parked car with occupants. The cops pull out their guns and run blindly into the bank to nab the robbers. Teller says they just left seconds before the cops came in. Cops run outside. Car parked in front with occupants? Gone. Clean get away. Oh yeah. Sad but true story of some Keystone Cops really screwing up this one.
 
5.  License to harass . Two little boys are playing with their He-Man action figures in the parking lot of a closed funeral parlor. A squad car pulls up and shouts something undecipherable. The kids approach the squad car and the cop in the passenger seat asks what they're doing. One of the kids, no more than ten years old replies, "Playing with Skeletor. My friend has Tri-clops." The same cop grabs the toy from the kid and tells them both to beat it and leaves. The kid is crying while the other one is trying to console him. "Don't worry, we can buy another one." As they both leave the parking lot after a few minutes the same squad car returns . Cop throws the toy at the kid and says,"Don't come back here again." Moral of this story? There are some cops who would rather traumatize some kid for life than to go home, kick the dog, eat leftovers his wife reheated and get drunk.

Sadly, me and my best friend never played with our toys in that parking lot ever again.  

Coming soon: Why I can't stand the police.

Scrapping Exam Ensures Ineptitude

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

In another boneheaded move to bolster minority recruitment and save a buck or two, the Chicago Police Department is considering phasing out the entrance exam for all applicants. As ludicrous as this may sound, it is quickly picking up momentum from the usual gaggle of well poisoners-reverends, community activists, and aldermen who see this as an opportunity to save money for their districts. You think police morale is low now? Wait until this test is scrapped and people who attained 60 credit hours in Pottery from some crappy junior college will be responding to your calls.

This is really sending the wrong message to minorities and to concerned citizens. "Just do the bare minimum" is a maxim that some of my colleagues swear by in this era of lawsuit happiness. This may as well be the motto for prospective applicants as well. "As long as I got my 60 credit hours in Bird Grooming and have no felony arrests-I'm in!"  Some of these people grew up with me took the test over the years and many failed.

And I'm glad they did.

These aren't the kind of people I'd like responding to a call or backing me up. It doesn't mean in anyway that they're aren't good people but I'd be more comfortable with someone who possesses the aptitude to pass an entrance exam rather than perfecting kegstands and beer bongs. These tests are designed specifically to weed out candidates with mental disorders and other behavioral issues and ultimately to test cognitive abilities. I took the test many moons ago, the day after Thanksgiving, with a hangover. Not one of my better ideas. But after 5 hours of nodding off, I mean testing, I was relieved. The rest is history.

Minorities need support elsewhere. Blacks and Hispanics just need to understand that if you want to become a civil servant, you're going to have to struggle and earn it just like everyone else. Asians are an even smaller minority but I haven't heard any of them asking for special treatment!

The tests, however, aren't perfect and some candidates end up slipping through the cracks. Just look at Abbate. Eliminating this test will open the flood gates. Glad I'm in my lifeboat with just a few more years to retirement. You might as well give Parking Enforcement Aides guns. They already did time in the Big House for weapon violations and know how to handle a gun or two.  

2010 Brings New Stupid Laws

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

I can count on one hand the number of tickets I've issued for people driving and talking on their cell phones. Should I write more?

Probably.

Will I?

No.

 A new Illinois law that prohibits texting while driving went into effect on January 1st along with 299 other laws. Just how exactly would this go down? Let's review a scenario: I'm walking my beat and I see John Q. Public driving his Prius while staring down at his phone using his keypad. I'm going to assume that he's trying to text someone and I approach the vehicle and conduct a traffic stop. "Officer, it's not what it looks like. I'm using my GPS on my cell phone" is what he tells me. I'm not going to demand to see his cell phone and check the history. The law states that the use of GPS devices while driving are permitted. If any driver who is pulled over has half a brain they could use this excuse, even if they're texting their bff about the sale on shoes at Neiman Marcus.

The other cell phone law targets cell phone users in and around school and construction zones without ear phones. Good luck enforcing this one since the school patrol unit is short officers. Good idea in theory though.

The original law for talking on your cell while driving was worded something like, "operating a cellular phone without a hands-free device." Technically, using GPS on your cell is illegal but the dingbats who wrote this law have no idea about the problems with enforcing this moronic law.

Illinois has had its share of dumb laws. Cohabitation is still on the books, just fyi. LMFAO!

Faster than A Speeding Menorah

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

After slamming down what I thought was the most sugared-down cup of hot cocoa from Power Ring Central (a.k.a. Dunkin Donuts), I headed towards Sushi Taiyo on the corner of Rush and Ontario for some water and perhaps a cup of Miso soup, which ideally would have countered the effects of the diabetic deluge with some sodium.

While crossing the busy intersection I heard a loud voice chanting something unintelligible almost as if through a bullhorn. As my concentration was dedicated to discerning this noise, a  speeding van nearly took me out as I stepped into the intersection. The van swerved and as if nothing had ever happened it continued westbound on Ontario.


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Don't Be That Guy

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

I recently responded to a call of a theft that just occurred at a small restaurant. Upon arriving, I learned that it was actually a pickpocket caper. Several males had entered the business and one managed to lift a woman's wallet from her purse which was, you guessed it, hanging on the back of her chair. Surprisingly, the manager saw what happened and chased after them down the  street, something I would not recommend. Detailed descriptions were provided and me and a few other units canvassed the area. I saw a guy who, for the most part, matched the description of one of the offenders. I trotted across Michigan Avenue and managed to catch the unsuspecting male off guard. I radioed this in and immediately attempted to put him in cuffs.

 While doing this a middle-aged couple with their child in a stroller walk up to me as if nothing was going on. The guy taps me on the shoulder and asks, "Excuse me officer. Can you tell me where Millennium Park is?" Normally, if I weren't busy and was doing my usual routine as a glorified tour guide, I'd oblige by responding that I indeed know where Millennium Park is and jokingly walk away then turn around and then tell the poor sap where to go. Instead, I've got a suspect I'm trying to detain and some imbecile who sees what I'm doing yet wants to interrupt me thus placing me, and his entire family in harm's way. THINK PEOPLE!

My back up arrived shortly thereafter and helped me get the situation under control. It turns out the man I had in handcuffs was not one of the offenders. He was, however, very understanding and wished me a good day. After I released him, it took all the strength I had to not tear this tourist a new one.  The law enforcement community just lost four police officers last week at the hands of a hardened criminal. They never saw it coming. We need all of our senses to assess situations both great and small. The next time you see an officer trying to question a subject, handcuff someone or heaven forbid fighting with someone and you have a burning desire to find out where the nearest abortion clinic is located (don't laugh, I actually got this one), please wait. I can multitask but I'm not going to get my throat slit by someone with a rap sheet longer than my arm. I'll leave the throat-slitting to Todd Stroger and the City Council.    

Only 27 More Shoplifting Days Left Til Christmas

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

The day before Thanksgiving is often spent making last minute preparations cleaning the house, hiding that bottle of gin from your reckless Uncle Phil, hiding that Victoria's Secret catalog that suspiciously found its way into the bathroom, etc. However, there's always that small percentile of people who embark on one last desperate act of stupidity and find themselves in handcuffs. This was the case this past Wednesday evening at a Walgreen's in the Gold Coast.
 
A handful of Police Officers were walking their posts when a male subject bolted out of a Walgreen's and was being apprehended by the store manager who was yelling, "stop, thief!"
Officers pursued the subject across a very busy intersection risking life and limb against traffic and hopped a large wall chasing the man into a darkly lit yard. Allegedly,the offender quickly pulled from his jacket a shiny metal object and looked directly at the officers chasing him. It remains unclear what transpired here but one of the officers drew his weapon and pointed the barrel at the offender. It turns out the shiny metallic item was nothing more than a curling iron which the offender just stole from the store. End of pursuit, offender in custody. No shots fired. This time.

This could have turned out very ugly. From this account, the officers may have been completely justified in lighting this jerk up. I wasn't there but if I was, this idiot, whose only excuse was that he wanted to buy his kid some food (sure, pal), would have died from lead poisoning. This store had been the target of shoplifters 3 times earlier the same day. Thieves: you are being put on notice. Come hell or high water, cops are tired of being on the defensive and targeted for frivolous lawsuits and we will smoke your asses. 

Lights, camera...damn, where's my camera?

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

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While you and the kids were gawking at a rodent on a float, pickpockets and their lookouts were sizing you up as well as the other thousands of suburbanites bewildered by the Lights Festival this past weekend.

Beside the kid pointing a laser pen in a horse's face and nearly tossing off the rider, everything seemed to run smoothly from a police perspective; that is until it was over.

Our victims then realized as they returned to their minivans for the long trek back to Bolingbrook or Hoffman Estates that their wallets, cell phones, ipods, and the like were mysteriously missing.

I guess Mickey Mouse really wasn't worth driving into the city, being stuck on the Ohio exit ramp and then detoured, getting gouged by parking garages, and trampled by a stampede of Mitch Musso fans. Oh yeah, and getting pickpocketed.
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What pothole? Oh, that one.

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

 As I was walking towards Trader Joe's on Ontario from Michigan to pick up a half gallon of soymilk, I was sucked in by the biggest pothole this side of the Grand Canyon. Wretching in pain, I played it off and hobbled on my way from the bus stop which obscured the gaping vortex so well. Maybe it was the gargantuan ad for the new Twilight movie on the side of the bus shelter that was carefully placed or maybe it's my poor eyesight.

 Apparently, not only can I catch a good glimpse of Hades from this particular bus stop in front of the Coach store but these rim benders are ubiquitous up and down Michigan Avenue. Be careful folks. I doubt you'll see the city repairing these potholes anytime soon (correctly anyway) so don't go chasing down the last horse carriage in your high heels. I might be there to write out an injury report if I can get my Segway to work.

The Return of Garrett's Popcorn

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

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I actually missed the smell of caramel and powdered cheese emanating from the vents of the old Michigan Avenue location. It's been almost a year since they've closed but the wait is finally over.

Garrett's Popcorn has returned to 625 N. Michigan Ave. and has brought back all the delectable favorites you remember. The parking situation is, as always, precarious, and you'll notice the entrance to the shop is on Ontario just east of Michigan.

You may feel compelled to double park in front. Please save yourself the trouble and have a passenger take over the wheel while you hustle your way in. A turning lane is directly in front of the entrance and you could and should be ticketed for obstructing traffic. A little bit of planning will ensure a pleasurable trip downtown for Chicago's favorite popcorn. Enjoy!

Honey, have you seen my wallet?

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

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The holidays are unofficially upon us. Just walked into Borders on Michigan Avenue the day before Halloween and noticed an assortment of pink Christmas trees on display. Give me a break, I haven't even had a chance to sift through my nieces' and nephews' trick or treat bags!

Alas, I digress. Thieves and other crooks have woken up from near dormancy and are preparing to make your holiday season less cheerful. Here are some safety tips that you may find useful.  Pass them on!

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Senior Citizens, Protests and Ponch

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Officer Wayward

Chicago Police Officer with his finger on the political pulse of the windy city.

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ABA Protest on Oct. 25, 2009

It seems lately that Chicago has become the mecca of protests. I've covered nearly every form of civil disobedience by Israelis, Palestinians, PETA, hotel unions, the Falun Gong and a litany of other groups in the downtown area.  I've been caught in the middle of shouting matches that resulted in me somehow getting pelted with pretzels. But today marks a new low. Allow me to explain ...
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