You'd be hard-pressed to find a city whose police culture has a stronger devotion to the blue code of silence than Chicago. There were a couple more examples from the headlines this week.
In the first story, a Chicago cop was writing a ticket when the owner of the car came out to see what was going on. As he did, his seven-month-old puppy slipped out of the house, at which point the Chicago cop shot the dog. Note that the dog appears to have been hit by bullet fragments that chipped off after the bullet hit something else. Meaning that to protect himself from a bite from a puppy (that neighbors said was wagging its tail when it was shot), this cop put everyone around him at risk of getting struck by stray fragments of bullet. He then calmly finished writing the parking ticket.
The blue wall part of the story occurred later, after the couple who owns the dog went to the media. Chicago PD apparently didn't like the publicity, so they sent a couple cops to pay the couple a visit.
Two days after the shooting, a sergeant and a lieutenant from the Chicago Police Department showed up at the Phillips' home.
"I thought they were sending honchos over to apologize," Barbara told me.
Instead, Al and Barbara said, the police questioned why the family had gone to the media, and insisted that the officer who shot at their dog is a "good man." When Al and Barbara were clearly unwilling to promise "no more media," they were issued a ticket for Colonel being off-leash two days prior.
At first, the City denied this visit ever took place, however, a TV news crew happened to be there and caught it on tape.
Catch that? The department not only sent a couple cops over to intimidate the couple, they then lied that the visit ever took place. And they only admitted it took place after they were caught on video. Now that we know the city and the police are willing to lie about the incident, why should we believe anything else they have to say about it? Note this, too:
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy weighed in with these comments on Fox TV News:
"Unfortunately, officers get bit by dogs frequently. We don't have to wait to get bit by a dog, we don't have to wait to get shot at before we take steps to protect ourselves. We have to shoot dogs frequently in the city.
Does Chicago PD at least give its cops training, so they can actually tell the difference between an aggressive animal about to attack and, say, a tail-wagging puppy? (Not that you should need training for that.) When I contacted them last April, I was told that the city offers no such training.
The second story involves a drunk, off-duty Chicago cop who in 2007 was caught on video viciously beating bartender Karolina Obrycka when she cut him off. The cop wasn't even charged until video of the beating surfaced. The bartender recently won $850,000 in a federal lawsuit. The city has agreed to pay the amount and not appeal the verdict. But there's a condition.
The city and Obrycka's attorneys are asking a judge to set aside that verdict, as part of their deal to pay Obrycka the $850,000 she was awarded right away. The city would forego any appeals of the jury's financial award to Obrycka, in exchange for not being held legally responsible for the beating.
"By reaching this agreement, the plaintiff gets certainty and an immediate payment of the jury's award. From the city's perspective, vacating the judgment eliminates the risk that the judgment will be misused in a way that hinders the city's ability to defend itself in future cases," city Law Department spokesman Roderick Drew said in an emailed statement.
Why does the city want to pay the settlement and have the verdict set aside? Because of what the jury found when it reached its verdict.
The Chicago Police Department has been found guilty of covering up the beating of a female bartender by a city police officer, and was criticized for honoring a "code of silence" in which officers cover up for one another's misdeeds . . .
Obrycka sued the police department and former police officer Anthony Abbate for a 2007 incident in which Abbate jumped behind her bar at Jesse's Shortstop Inn and, when reprimanded by Obrycka, assaulted her.
The altercation was caught on surveillance tape, but Chicago police officers ignored the tape's existence and failed to mention in their police report that the assailant was a city cop. Obrycka's attorney presented evidence, including hundreds of phone calls between Abbate and other cops in the hours after the incident, that convinced the jury there was a widespread effort to cover up the attack.
So rather than take the verdict as a (yet another) sign that there's something seriously wrong within the Chicago Police Department, the city has chosen to pay out $850,000 to make the jury's findings go away. Otherwise, the city might have had to compensate other people beaten to a bloody pulp by Chicago cops. And we can't have that.
Let's hear it from the mayor himself.
"This agreement, in my view, closes a chapter on something - before I was mayor - happened, and it also allows us to protect the city against future lawsuits," Emanuel said.
So upon hearing that some of his city's cops helped cover up the fact that one of their own beat a woman senseless, Emanuel's first reaction is to cover his own ass (don't blame me, it happened before I was mayor!), and his second to cover the city's. No apology for the actions of the city's public servants. No promise to investigate the culture of lying within the department.
It's worth noting that Emanuel chose Garry McCarthy as his new police chief last year. McCarthy came from Newark, which ranked 13th from the bottom in the country for police misconduct in 2010. McCarthy made it clear where his priorities would lie in Chicago when he declared shortly after his appointment that, "I'll have cops' backs." It sounds like cops are doing a fine job of covering their own backs. It's people like Karolina Obrycka who could use some help.
By the way, this is all happening while Chicago PD remains under federal investigation for torturing suspects, a scandal that went all the way up to the office of Mayor Richard Daley, who knew about the torture, but did nothing to stop it. Looks like Emanuel will carry on the Daley tradition of turning a blind eye to police abuse.
Under Rahm's leadership, expect the blue code to endure in the Windy City, strong as ever.