If you draw a paycheck from the City of Chicago, it's usually not a good career move to criticize Mayor Daley and his top brass. But that didn't stop Lieutenant John R. Andrews, a twenty-five year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, from speaking out last month about Good King Rich and his court in an online essay entitled: A City at War with Itself: Chicago -- Fast Tracking to Anarchy (Understanding the Organizational Paralysis of the CPD and the Mission to Recovery).
Andrews' title is far more complicated than his message, which, in a nutshell, is this: (1) CPD is woefully understaffed; (2) street cops are regularly outgunned by bands of thugs who no longer fear the police; (3) the corrupt culture of Chicago cronyism has left a lasting stain on the department; and (4) as a result of all these things, morale on the force is at an all-time low.
Andrews, by all accounts, is not a loose cannon. Nor is he a guy in search of his fifteen minutes of fame. He's just a career cop who knew he was taking a risk by posting his controversial essay on a personal blog.
He told the Chicago Sun-Times' Neil Steinberg that he has had "zero disciplinary problems" during his quarter-century as a Chicago cop. Nevertheless, after blogging about Daley, Superintendent Jody Weis, the family Carothers, and others, he's become the target of a CPD internal affairs investigation. Go figure.
It remains to be seen whether the mayor and his men will be successful in their attack on the messenger. But one thing is clear -- they've had remarkably little success attacking Andrews' message.
If you want to know why that is, do two things. First, read the lieutenant's essay. Then, the next time you see a Chicago cop out and about, politely ask that officer whether he or she shares Andrews' concerns.
I've repeated this exercise many times over the last few weeks, and I've yet to have a cop tell me that Andrews is off-base or that Andrews exaggerates either the problems within CPD or the problems cops face daily on our city's streets. More often than not, I've gotten an earful about all that is wrong within both the department and City Hall.
The tone of the responses I've received hasn't surprised me in the least, because Andrews' basic message wasn't news to me. Several of my friends who are Chicago cops have been telling me the same general things for a couple of years now. What is news is that Andrews had the courage to go public with these problems and start naming names. Chicagoans from every neighborhood need to make sure this police veteran isn't hung out to dry for speaking truth to power.
Lt. John R. Andrews loves the many honorable men and women with whom he serves on the CPD. He also cares greatly about what the future holds for the law-abiding citizens of Chicago. That's why he's speaking out.
I'll do my best to have his back on this one, and I hope you will, too. He's probably going to need our help.