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Tracy Siska Headshot

Chicago Police Mobile Strike Force, A.K.A. SOS 2: Someone Call Patrick Fitzgerald!

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The recent news that Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis is considering reviving the disgraced Special Operations Section is very troubling. Ongoing Investigations initiated by both Cook County State's Attorney's Office and US Attorney's Office in Chicago have yet to be completed and Weis has somehow determined that the unit at the center of the various investigations deserves to be revived. Once again the citizens of Chicago are left to only speculate about the motivations behind this move because Weis has not made any attempts to inform us.

With both the federal and state investigation ongoing, it is safe to assume that the Police Department, policy makers, and the citizens of Chicago have yet to understand the depths of the corruption at the heart of the Special Operations Section's street unit. Local reports quoted anonymous sources saying that this unit will be better trained and supervised. How can that be when the investigations into the unit have not been completed and we cannot understand how poorly trained and supervised the unit was? Without this vital knowledge it is hard to contemplate how the authorities within the Department could feel comfortable reestablishing a similar unit with the possibility of utilizing much of the same group of officers.

Weis and his colleagues within the Department have demonstrated on more than one occasion that there is not a practice of applying lessons learned from the past (even the recent past) when making decisions in the present. The Department has decided to disregard their inability to understand the recent past when making their decision to revive the disgraced SOS street unit in the form of the Mobile Strike Force. Weis was brought in, among other reasons, to revive the credibility of the Department within communities of color throughout this city, not to revive the SOS street unit with a different name.

The continuation of the status quo on public access to data generated by the Chicago Police Department forbids any inquiries from the public in their search for answers to the level of abuse and corruption at the hands of the SOS street unit. "Institutional amnesia" within the Department forbids Weis from understanding the effect the SOS street unit had on communities of color in our city. If Weis is to take the Chicago Police Department down a progressive path, his actions over his first 250 days do not reflect this direction.

In his first 84 days, Weis decided to make a major leap forward in the level of firepower available to beat officers throughout the city by deploying the M4 assault rifle without ever seeking community input. Now on his 250th day, Weis has decided to revive a disgraced unit being investigated by both county and federal prosecutors for kidnapping, robbery, and even murder for hire. Unfortunately, Weis is demonstrating through his actions that decisions about policing in Chicago are once again being made without applying lessons learned from past mistakes.

Weis has done what all Chicago Police Superintendents before him have done: use the excuse of a crime spike to institute a special unit that will most likely go bad. Many members of communities of color throughout this city called the street unit of SOS "snatch on site." This is a direct reference to the widespread allegations that SOS was actually kidnapping people of color off the street, falsely arresting them, seizing their keys, emptying their homes and then releasing them.

This is an allegation that Chicago Justice Project has heard on many different occasions in many communities of color. Are all the allegations legitimate? I dare say probably not. Have they all been investigated? I am sure they have not. Should Weis or the citizens of Chicago be comfortable with the revitalization of a disgraced and brutal unit-- utilizing much of the same personal-- before the investigation into its misconduct is complete? I dare say no. But Weis is.