Friday, July 27, 2012

Not a good week for the police image

This is the week that settlements got approved that local officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, hope will put to rest the blot on the Police Department image caused by the activities of one-time police Commander Jon Burge and his Pullman Area crew of detectives.

Yet it seems there will always be something, somewhere, that causes a bit of embarrassment for our city’s law enforcement agency.

WHICH PROBABLY GOES for every profession or vocation. Somebody, somewhere is going to do something stupid.

Take the case of the federal prosecutors who work just the other side of the state line in Hammond, Ind. They have been engaged in an investigation of streetgang activity that manages to stretch into both states – a subtle reminder that the Chicago-area is a bi-state region.

Among several individuals who signed plea agreements that were made public in court filings made public Thursday was a former Chicago police officer.

Alex Guerrero of Chicago was supposedly singling out drug dealers, which in theory sounds like he’s doing his job.

BUT FEDERAL PROSECUTORS say that what Guerrero was actually doing was robbing the dealers, then giving the money over to people affiliated with the Latin Kings gang.

The dealers may have thought they were fortunate in that they weren’t really arrested, and just lost some cash. But it means that the image of the police got thrown into the mix of the fight against the spread of illicit drugs.

For prosecutors say Guerrero and his partner were using their unmarked police vehicle, their body armor, weapons and police credentials to bolster their robbery efforts.

This case, if ultimately resulting in a conviction, is truly one of a cop wanting to be a crook – and thinking that his badge gives him the authority to harass at will!

PROSECUTORS SAY THAT Guerrero enriched himself by about $10,000, which may have seemed like ample extra cash at the time he got it. But it must sound like petty cash now that he is confronted with pleading guilty to conspiracy to participate in racketeering, conspiracy to distribute, interference with commerce by threats of violence, and carrying a firearm during a violent crime.

The Times of Northwest Indiana newspaper reported how Guerrero faces the likelihood of a 19-year prison term; which even after early release for good behavior is factored in still comes to more than 16 years of real incarceration time.

Not a good day for the police, when they have to cope with the public wondering if the cop who is approaching them at any given moment has his own agenda that may be more criminal in intent than anything done by a real criminal.

As if that isn’t bad enough, there’s also a lawsuit that got filed in Cook County Circuit Court this week.

THE CHICAGO CRIME Commission is being sued by Edward Arroyo because a new book they publish identified Arroyo as a suburban Roselle resident who leads the Spanish Gangster Disciples.

Which, he says, he doesn’t!

Mistaken identity? Somebody thinks all Latinos look alike? Who’s to say!

Arroyo’s attorney says that the damage to his reputation is so severe that a mere correction or retraction by the crime commission would not be sufficient.

HE WANTS CASH. Even though I’m sure some people are going to want to believe that he’s merely being greedy and seeking a financial payday.

Although I couldn’t help but be amazed at the crime commission’s explanation to the Chicago Tribune for what went wrong – bad information. Which, regretably, is something that has cropped up from time to time in my own reporting.

They merely compiled information in the Gang Book that was taken directly from police department records. Does Arroyo have a beef with his local police department for thinking that he’s a thug?

Is the fact that some police can’t tell the difference of who’s who something we all should be concerned about? It definitely doesn’t put law enforcement in the best light.


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