Thursday, August 20, 2009

Even public officials face violence

I remember back a couple of decades ago to an afternoon I spent as a reporter-type person with the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago, which on that particular day had me working at the Belmont Area detective bureau (the one on the site that Chicago old-timers think of as the site of Riverview Amusement Park).

I was checking on what turned out to be a pair of miniscule (from a news judgment standpoint, I’m sure the victim vividly remembers the incidents to this day) shootings that took place on the North Side.

SOMEHOW, THE CONVERSATION turned to the requirement that police officers be armed at all times (even when they were off the job). I recall one of the homicide detectives telling me, “I don’t take the trash out without wearing” his pistol.

Now I’m sure some people are going to read that anecdote and wonder why it is fair that a police officer can wear a pistol, but a so-called law-abiding citizen cannot. That is a topic for a different day (and no, I don’t support the concept of “concealed carry,” since I think too many people are likely to get excited and careless and overreact and shoot themselves).

But I couldn’t help but remember that cop who by now is retired and may well be living elsewhere other than Chicago (my uncle Mike who was a Chicago cop for a few decades retired to Arkansas) when I read accounts of a firefighter who was attacked in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, the firefighter was found at about 4 a.m. on the sidewalk near Halsted and Dickens streets. He underwent surgery Wednesday morning at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, and officials said he was “in bad shape.”

I’M SURE AT his age (24), he probably was the foolishly fearless type who thought he could wander into any neighborhood and be safe. After all, he was a firefighter. If burning buildings weren’t about to take him down, why should he feel threatened walking through a neighborhood whose residents would like to think they are the elite of Chicago.

But the simple fact is that crime can happen to anyone, at anytime, and just about anywhere.

Perhaps the copper from the depths of my memory was merely ahead of his time in wearing his holstered pistol while walking out to the alley behind his home to take out the trash.

Now I know that some people are going to complain that too much attention is being given to this incident, or to a string of other crimes that have occurred in recent weeks in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

POLICE HAVE BEEN claiming that the individual incidents do not appear to be necessarily connected to each other. So it isn’t likely to be one person committing a batch of serial acts. It’s just likely the potential for violence that can break out anywhere – even in places where local residents thought they were immune.

By comparison, the numbers or types of incidents fall short of what some people are too willing to accept as just the routine way of life in certain inner-city neighborhoods, particularly if they were on the West or South sides of the city.

Think about it. How many of you who now are sympathetic toward that firefighter would be thinking to yourself “he was an idiot to be walking around out there” if the incident had happened at 63rd Street and Stewart Avenue – the heart of the Englewood neighborhood?

Things like this can happen anywhere. I couldn’t help but notice the Tribune newspaper website’s other “big” story for Wednesday – it seemed like too perfect a pairing to go along with the attacked firefighter.

I’M TALKING ABOUT the attacked mayor.

No, not Richard M. Daley. He, after all, has his security detail that recently went so far as to help capture one of three men who escaped from an Indiana state prison when that man happened to wander into the town where the Daley family has their summer cottage.

It was Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett who got beaten up when he threatened to call police to break up an incident involving a man who was beating up an older woman at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Trying to do “the right thing” got him a few punches and scrapes on his upper lip and cheek, along with the national attention of being a public official whose layers of security were not enough to keep him immune from the potential for violence that we all confront in life – even if some of us are in denial and want to think we can hide from it.


EDITOR’S NOTES: A firefighter is trying to recover from a beating he took in what is supposed ( to be one of Chicago’s elite neighborhoods.

Even a mayor can become ( a crime victim, particularly when he leaves his security detail at home.

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