Chicago Police Officers “Don’t Want To Become Somebody’s Hashtag”


Nearly 250 people have been shot in Chicago in January, and at least 45 have died, numbers higher than last year’s. They were shot in the kind of cold that keeps Chicago indoors. Still, they were shot on the street and in their homes. They were shot in alleys, and the other day, one was shot dead in a hotel lobby. A grandmother was shot sitting in a car next to her grandson. He was killed. Most were victims of the gang wars of Chicago. As the bodies hit the floor, police morale falls and City Hall is overwhelmed by politics of its own making, says Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. If this were any other year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel would hold a news conference, flanked by top cops in uniform and community and political leaders. They’d all wear stern expressions. He’d tell Chicago he was getting tough on crime. Things have changed because this is the year of Laquan McDonald, the black youth who was shot 16 times by a white cop, most of the shots piercing the body when he was on the ground.

Before the McDonald video, the mayor said that because of complaints of police misconduct, his cops had gone “fetal” on him. Now he can’t afford aggressive policing. And “fetal” might be the preferable political position. “It’s all messed up, and he’s in a tough position right now,” said Alderman Roderick Sawyer, a leader of the City Council Black Caucus that has been critical of the administration’s handling of police issues. “The black officers I know will treat people with respect until they have to be aggressive, and then they’ll meet aggression with aggression,” Sawyer said. “And the white police officers I know? They may feel a little differently, a little more concerned about their response to stops.” Kass says detectives still work their cases, but patrol units in blue shirts don’t want to become somebody’s hashtag. They want to keep their pensions. The mayor’s response is to bring on Charles Ramsey, a former Chicago deputy superintendent, as a consultant at $350 per hour.

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