A Chicago police officer is calling for the arrest of a Chicago fire captain who he claims assaulted him during a marine rescue earlier this month.
Chicago police Officer Joseph J. Smith alleges that fire Capt. Mark Altman grabbed and shoved him to the ground while they were rescuing two men who had fallen into the water near Goose Island on the morning of Nov. 1, the Chicago Sun-Times reports in a joint investigation with the Better Government Association. Smith claims that his call for justice has been silenced because Altman is "politically connected"--his father, Edward Altman, is a former Chicago Fire Commissioner.
Smith and Altman were both responding to the same call, Smith as a member of the police Marine Unit and Altman on the fire department's Squad One, when the altercation took place, according to the Chicago Tribune. The resulting tension could threaten Mayor Rahm Emanuel's proposal to combine the marine units of the Chicago Police Department and Chicago Fire Department, one of many cost-cutting initiatives targeting both departments in the mayor's proposed budget, which passed unanimously through its first City Council vote Wednesday.
The conflict is also inconveniently timed as the Chicago Fire Department prepares to move its headquarters into the Police Department building on South Michigan Ave.
Sources told the Sun-Times that Altman had been following an order to remove people not wearing safety vests from the riverfront when the Police Department's Marine Unit arrived at the scene. The Fire Department has not commented on the issue, but Smith described his view of the incident to the Sun-Times:
"A fireman was saying, 'Get back. Get back.' I informed him that I was with the CPD Marine Unit, and he told me he didn't care who I was with, using a lot of four-letter words. I just ignored him and bent down to look in the water. I saw two people in the water and another firefighter ready to grab them. [That's when Altman] grabbed me and slammed me back. I fell backwards and fell on the ground. I was in shock. I have no idea where this came from. I've never had any problems with the Fire Department."
Smith says he has experienced numbness in his hands following the altercation, according to the Tribune. He reported the incident to his commander, at which point sources say Altman was removed from the scene by other fire officials. Smith filed a simple battery report, claiming minor injuries.
Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford told the Tribune that there is an active investigation in progress.