Chicago has a long and consistent history of police corruption and brutality. Even our esteemed mayor has been linked to cases of police brutality. Most of the cops I have worked with have been outstanding officers–they don’t abuse kids, beat businessmen, threaten people or beat up bartenders. All of my clients can tell you about the good cops in their neighborhoods. The same thing holds true about one bad apple: One bad cop in a community makes any sort of law enforcement in that community significantly more difficult. Anytime I start working with a new family, part of what I have to do is assure them that I’m not like “that cop.” For my normal job, that isn’t that difficult. Given the new program I run, I seem to be running into more resistance.

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A little context: The juvenile court has a new program the Juvenile Advisory Council. This is a program that allows for youth input into juvenile court programs. One aspect of this Council is a peer “conference” program. It’s exactly like a peer jury, but the State’s Attorney’s Office objected to the word Jury.

On Saturday we heard a case about a kid who was arrested for selling heroin. The peers were four kid, all of whom successfully completed probation. When they asked the new kid about why he was at peer conference, he related that “Ponytail” had planted bags of heroin on him. The minute the new kid said “Ponytail” all of my peer jurors said, “Oh him. He’s crooked.” We then spent a good half hour working through why we couldn’t believe the police reports. New kid’s mom was insistent that her child was framed by this cop. New kid was pretty confident that he had gotten away with anything he may, or may not, have done.

We did manage to put together an action plan–a series of goals steps the family has to achieve in order to successfully complete our program–and we have another follow up meeting scheduled next month. If this kid is as bad as the police reports suggest, by next month he’ll have picked up a new case.

When the family left, I went over the police reports with my peer jurors. We discussed the new kids history of juvenile court interaction (low and behold, he was busted for dealing in school). I noted the use of surveillance and criminal informants for this particular bust. If you think, “sounds like The Wire” you’re not too far off. To be honest, it sounded like a fairly significant case. While my peer jurors decided that we should not take these kinds of cases anymore, I have to wonder why this case wasn’t prosecuted. It’s my experience with this particular office, if they can’t prove the case, they send the case to one of probation’s alternative programs. If this case is properly documented, as it appears to be, the State’s Attorney’s Office had a slam dunk conviction. The only problem would be the arresting officer–Ponytail.

I am not saying that this cop is a dirty cop. I am saying the situation is bad enough for it to trickle down to the probation level. I would like to hear about other people’s experiences with some of Chicago’s finest.

3 Comments so far

  1. Dan Telfer (unregistered) on March 28th, 2007 @ 10:02 pm

    Yeah, I may not have much to say on this subject, but I did always wonder how realistic The Wire is. Unlike Law and Order, their budgets seem realistic and every cop has a chance to see their trouble cases as human. Some choose to, others don’t. It’s good to see that in real life it’s not always about “busting heads”.

  2. pk (unregistered) on March 29th, 2007 @ 7:31 pm

    most of the nasty experiences i’ve had with chiPD have been in traffic; almost never on a one-to-one basis. usually really petty things. blowing red lights and stop signs, that sort of thing.

    the only truly bizarre thing i’ve seen was a cop apparently in a huge hurry to get to an ATM. i watched him force an entire intersection out of his way, sirens and lights blazing, then pull into the chase bank parking lot across from the whole foods on ashland, calmly get out of his car, and get cash. it was… interesting.

  3. Artemis (unregistered) on April 2nd, 2007 @ 4:30 pm

    The experience that stands out in my mind is here: http://artemiswinter.livejournal.com/309540.html. It still upsets me to think about it.

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