Stop the Violence II

by Cenabeth Cross 

In the quest to write about the violence in the streets and in the housing complexes of Chicago, I still find myself writing again about police brutality. Police brutality is nothing new, of course, but now anyone can find evidence of it in the media.

Ald. Robert Shaw (9) said recently, “We are sitting on a power keg.” He announced that he and other aldermen are planning to bring the problem of police brutality against minorities to President Bill Clinton’s attention.

The Chicago Police Department is understaffed and under court order; they are not allowed at this time to do any hiring at all, according to news reports. The courts put a moratorium on hiring new police officers because the Police Union and the City are fighting a legal battle over testing and promotion procedures. The city wants to maximize diversity in the department and wants the freedom to hire minorities on the force. The Police Union wants all hiring and promotions to be based on tests – tests on which minorities often score lower than white officers.

Another serious problem on the city police force is the shortage of field lieutenants and sergeants.

The lieutenants and sergeants preside over and supervise street arrests. They are the ones who make sure the arrests and the procedures of the arrests are carried out properly. The force is short 84 lieutenants and 53 sergeants, according to news reports.

Meanwhile, many citizens are complaining that the police assigned to the streets are beating and robbing citizens. Jeremiah Mearday, 18, allegedly was beaten with flashlights in the street in front of witnesses. Mearday suffered a broken jaw and other injuries and was hospitalized for a few days. Leron Betts was one of the witnesses and he said in a television interview that Mearday was handcuffed and the two policemen were holding him on the ground as they beat him. His case is being handled by the police department’s Office of Professional Standards.

The police have said that they tried to arrest Mearday because he was standing on the corner with two known gang members.

Ryan Norris, a 19-year-old church deacon, was stopped for a traffic violation Friday, Sept. 26, according to television news reports. When he attempted to call his father on his car phone, Norris said the police allegedly snatched him out of his car and forced him into the squad car where they began to beat him. He also wound up with a broken jaw. His father, the Rev. Julius Norris, said he is filing suit against the department. This case is being handled by the department’s Internal Affairs unit.

On Sept. 30, two off duty cops allegedly held up two men in front of Tito’s Haciendo in the Pilsen neighborhood – my neighborhood – in broad daylight, according to television news reports. They robbed the men of $50 or $60 at gunpoint. They were positively identified in a line up. There were witnesses to this crime also.

Another demonstration was held on Sept. 24 at City Hall to protest the handling of the case of Jorge Guillen. Guillen, a mentally ill man, was killed by police in his home in front of his wife and children on Oct. 3, 1995. The protesters said they wanted prosecutors to charge the three officers with murder for Guillen’s death. They said a crime has been covered up. In my story this summer, I wrote about previous marches about Guillen’s death. The demonstration was sponsored by Neighbors Against Police Brutality.

On Oct.1, an inmate was beaten with an aluminum baseball bat, according to various news reports. This happened in a police lock-up on the West Side at 3115 S. Harrison. Police Superintendent Matt Rodriguez said Lloyd Amos, the guard who beat the man, will be fired for his actions. The victim suffered a broken arm and two broken legs.

Eric Holder, a six-year veteran on the police force, was beaten this summer by 11 police officers as he tried to break up a disturbance in front of his girlfriend’s home, according to various news reports. The police arrived and allegedly began to beat Holder, even though he was shouting that he was an officer and showing his badge, as reported by the television news.

Johnny Cochran, O.J. Simpson’s attorney, was interviewed on “The View,” a talk show on Channel 7 daytime. Cochran said police behave like a secret society; they don’t tell on each other. There may be a few good ones in the bunch, Cochran said, but if they keep secret the misdeeds of other officers, they’re in the same barrel as the other rotten apples.

All of this police brutality seems to have a racial motive. Racism even has a history in the mayor’s family. The late Mayor Richard J. Daley, called “The Boss,” made it clear how he felt about the Blacks. He would place strict curfews on Black neighborhoods and during the ’68 riots, issued a ‘shoot to kill’ order for anyone found out at the wrong time. Back in the ‘60s, Blacks had little input in the law making and enforcement.

The current mayor, Richard M. Daley, grew up in Bridgeport, where 13-year-old Lenard Clark was attacked. In the ‘60s, Blacks weren’t allowed in Bridgeport unless we were going to the International Amphitheatre. Police officers made sure all the Black people left the area immediately after any event in that area.

This background makes it hard for me to believe that the current mayor really understands the problem.

On Sept. 25, the current mayor spoke at a anti-violence rally at 5000 S. Wood Ave. The subject was gang bangers. Daley said he wants everyone to help stop violence in our communities. As he sweated profusely, he said the rally was more important than going to the Rolling Stones concert which was going on the same night. But Daley seemed uncomfortable at the event. He made a few more remarks and he was gone.

Many of the people at the rally were carrying banners and signs with the CAPS logos on them. CAPS means Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy. CAPS is a partnership of the community and other city agencies working together to fight crime and improve the quality of life in Chicago neighborhoods.

Community members are more than just eyes and ears of the police. With CAPS, you get involved in actually solving the crime problems in your neighborhood. Chicago is divided into 279 police beats, small geographic areas in which police officers are assigned. These beats are organized into 25 police districts. Teams of officers patrol your beat 24 hours a day. The same officers are assigned to the same beat on the same shift for a year; this way you get to know them and they get to know you. Beat teams are supported by teams of rapid response officers. They answer many of the emergency calls in the district, allowing beat teams to remain on the beat working with the community.

At a CAPS meeting in the Austin District, some gang members expressed their fears concerning the beatings and said the police sometimes plant drugs on them when they are arrested. They said the police beat them sometimes and release them. They said they are aware that once they have a police record, their future is shot economically, even with an education. Life after you get a police record is bleak.

Children think the gang is a family or a replacement for the one you don’t have. Some are “jumped in” – they are beaten and forced to join. Some of the females have sex with the entire gang. Usually getting out means death.

A woman who appeared on the Geraldo Show, Betty Cook, said her daughter was tortured, beaten, raped and shot in the head twice before they put her on the railroad tracks, where a train dismembered her body. When you get in trouble, you’re on your own, unless you really do have a family and they help you.

Incarceration doesn’t rehabilitate. My youngest brother, after serving 6 years in the Menard state prison, came home and had to be put in a mental institution, where he is today. The jails are overcrowded as it is. They are allowing inmates with a lesser crime to serve their time at home connected to an electronic box.

I know a young man named Michael who was convicted of selling marijuana. Because his mother lives in Eckhart Park, a CHA senior citizens development, he has to stay at his brother-in law’s home. Michael has an anklet around his leg that is connected to a computerized box that sends a signal to the main office if you go anywhere more than 100 feet away from it.

If the box sends this message, Michael will have to go back to jail to finish the remainder of his sentence.

On Oct. 8, WGCI radio station reported that the monitoring systems aren’t working as they had planned. The boxes aren’t registering to the home office as they should. The electronic box can’t stop crime if it is defective. We have to start thinking of different ways to stop crime and violence and help our kids stay out of jail. We have to get involved.

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