Friday, March 18, 2016

Will a new police superintendent really change law enforcement mindset?

As someone who actually managed to cast a ballot to keep Anita Alvarez as Cook County state’s attorney, I wonder what it would really take to change the mindset of people working within law enforcement.

FOXX: Can she single-handedly change?
A good part of the reason why I didn’t jump on the Kim Foxx bandwagon was because I thought people were being absurd if they thought that Foxx could single-handedly “clean up” the attitude amongst some police in viewing black people as the natural subject for their harassment.

SO AS FAR as those people who earlier this week were chanting, “Two down, one to go” (referring to Alvarez and former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel still their target), I think they’re dealing a little over-simplistically with this issue.

I comprehend the anger some feel about the shooting death back in 2014 of teenager Laquan McDonald (the one most of us didn’t learn of until late in 2015, and might not know about at all if not for THAT video recording). But I think we’re making a mistake if we think that it was individuals involved in creating the current law enforcement mindset in Chicago.

It’s not even unique to Chicago. It truly is a mindset I have found within many law enforcement types, regardless of which city they claim to “serve and protect” (or “serve and oppress,” according to the old joke). I still remember one police chief (not in Chicago) telling me how law enforcement attracts the kind of people who are our society's true elite in the way they view the world.

So long as the police in Chicago don’t experience a change, new State’s Attorney Foxx isn’t going to give us any significantly-different results.

KIRKPATRICK: Could be next police supt.
IT IS WITH all that in mind that I viewed Thursday’s announcement by the Chicago Police Department that they have narrowed down to three the number of people in line for the superintendent’s post.

Some think the significant factor is that interim Supt. John Escalante is NOT among the finalists – although I never really figured he would be. There are those activist types who are clamoring for a black person to be picked as the new head of the Chicago police.

Sure enough, two of the three finalists are black men. Which makes me wonder what happens if it’s the third person – a white woman who once was the head of police in Spokane, Wash. – who gets the job.

MARTIN: Old-school cops approved
Would there be a public outcry, and not just because a woman was put in charge of a so-called “man’s job!”

I DON’T KNOW anything about Anne Kirkpatrick or her qualifications, so I’m not criticizing her or endorsing her for the post. Although I do think it would take an outsider of a significantly different mindset to give our city’s police department the kind of jolt it needs.

Whether Kirkpatrick has that kind of “juice” is something we’d have to see. All I know is that just picking a black person for the post won’t change the mentality of the department.

Many black police officers I have encountered can be just as gung-ho and oppressive toward the masses as any other law enforcement official.

Heck, I still remember one-time police Superintendent LeRoy Martin, who got himself into verbal trouble for admiring the oppressive tactics of police in China, and made comments suggesting that the U.S. Constitution gave too much in the way of protection to the rights of criminal suspects.

NOT EXACTLY THE kind of talk the activist types would want to hear.

EMANUEL: Detracting attention from self?
Now I’m not saying that all black police officers think like LeRoy (who wasn’t even the first African-American to rise to the rank of police superintendent in Chicago; that was Fred Rice back in 1983, appointed by then-Mayor Harold Washington). It’s just that we need to think beyond the knee-jerk reactions some people will want to have with regards to the police.

The possible ramifications of who winds up getting this position will reverberate for years to come – certainly longer than the three more years that Emanuel has on his mayoral term.

Because in the end, it is the people who are in charge of the department who will determine the direction our law enforcement officers are headed – not anybody we manage to fire or dump on Election Day!


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