Saturday, May 19, 2012

EXTRA: How we perceive police ‘bust’ says more about us than arrest itself

Did the Chicago police behave like a batch of goons when they raided most of the units in a Bridgeport-based apartment building and took most of the people living there into custody – with some claiming they were held for as long as 30 hours before finally being released without charges being filed?

Or did an undercover police investigation manage to prevent a catastrophy of major proportions from occurring – one that would have destroyed the campaign office of President Barack Obama, along with the home of Mayor Rahm Emanuel AND also police stations and squad cars across Chicago?

THE REALITY OF the situation is that there probably are elements of truth in both ways of viewing what happened in recent days as police tried to maintain order (or “preserve disorder” if your humor tends toward the sarcastic) in Chicago.

One of my Facebook-type “friends” posted a photograph on her “wall” showing the police lined up on Saturday in front of Emanuel’s Ravenswood-neighborhood home – dozens of officers in body armor and helmets, while standing astride their bicycles!

Which is almost as absurd an image as the film Medium Cool (set in Chicago during the ’68 Democratic convention) that showed police training for how to deal with protesters, and the officers in plaid, Bermuda shorts playing the part of “hippies” running around shouting “peace” and “love” before being arrested without incident by their blue-clad counterparts.

The incident definitely sprung out-of-control from the Chicago Police Department perspective, since the initial reports that became known told the story from the former perspective. I’m sure they would have preferred for the arrests to come out first – which would have made the other people sound like “sour grapes.”

PERSONALLY, I SAW a guy with his civil rights attorney on WTTW-TV tell his account of being shackled for 18 hours, and having his pleas for information about why he was being detained repeatedly ignored by police, until finally released without charges being filed against him.

That was far from the only report being done Friday night into Saturday. Which is why prosecutors and police on Saturday then came out with their own version – which is that three people were arrested at the apartment building and now face charges because it is suspected they were planning to attack all those aforementioned sites.

Supposedly, the raid in which all these people were taken into custody because they happened to live in the same building (although some of them admittedly just moved to Chicago in recent weeks to be part of the NATO summit protests and aren’t planning to stay much longer) protected us from a plot.

Allegedly, the materials for making explosive devices were found. Although there also are the reports that find out some of the equipment and ingredients confiscated by police turned out to be the materials used to make beer.

DID THE CHICAGO cops do the 21st Century equivalent of busting some bootleggers?

Did they think they were going to arrest the spiritual great-grandchildren of the Haymarket Riot protesters, only to wind up busting the spiritual grandchildren of the brewers who stocked the speakeasies maintained by Al Capone?

Or did they literally save the life of the mayor, preventing him from going into the Chicago history books alongside Anton Cermak?

The Chicago Sun-Times reported during the weekend how the Chicago police had undercover officers inside the apartment building in recent weeks, and claims those people personally saw the materials and activities involved with the manufacture of explosives.

PERSONALLY, I’M INCLINED to think that there might have been something funky taking place inside that building. But there’s something about the idea of forcing one’s way into an entire building and thinking that everybody is suspect.

As one who has lived in many different apartment buildings (and who is pretty sure that some of my past neighbors were knuckeheads), I’d hate to have to deal with police because a cop is overly suspicious.

I also would be distrustful of any law enforcement type who thinks that suspecting one or two people gives them “probable cause” to start restraining everybody who lives there.

My bottom-line in this case is that I can’t help but feel something is wrong with this “bust” because of the fact that only three people out of a six-unit apartment are now facing charges.

A PART OF me wonders if everybody else in that building has a legitimate grievance, albeit one that city officials will probably want to downplay the significance of because, at best, it makes law enforcement look incompetent.

Only the biggest of police “apologists” could have an objection to that concept!


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