Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What are we spending that money on?

People who are hoping for dramatic changes in the way the Chicago Police Department operates must truly be feeling depressed following a pair of reports published in the daily newspapers on Tuesday.

It seems that some $4.5 million has been spent on legal and consulting fees due to actions being taken in response to the 2014 shooting death of a teenager on the South Side by a police officer. The Chicago Sun-Times reports the figures likely will continue to rise in coming months.

THOSE CONSULTANTS AND attorneys were supposed to be coming up with new means and procedures by which the city’s police could operate in ways that would be more respectful of the populace.

Yet these legal actions also go contrary to the sentiments of the new attorney general. Jeff Sessions, who is the appointee of President Donald J. Trump, has made it clear he thinks our police department ought to have fewer restrictions placed on it.

He certainly isn’t going to have any kind of monitor placed over the department, not even if that monitor were someone appointed by him.

Because for as much as Trump likes to rant and rage about crime in Chicago being out of control, I doubt he wants to be put into a position where he’d be responsible for trying to find a solution to the problems of urban violence.

WHICH AREN’T REALLY any more out of control in Chicago than they are anywhere else in the nation.

And the general solution offered up by conservative ideologues to such problems?

It usually is something similar to the way that comedian/actor Redd Foxx’ “Fred Sanford” character would deal with bills that he didn’t have the money to pay. He’d put them back in the mail box, and pretend he never saw them in the first place.

So the fact that law firms and law enforcement consultants are managing to collect millions of dollars in Chicago taxpayer funds out of a dream that they will find some solution to getting the city’s homicide rate to drop back to the levels it was at a few years ago? It just seems like money that could have been better spent elsewhere.

BUT THIS WASN’T the only negative report that turned up this week. The Chicago Tribune looked into the results of the Chicago Police Academy – which would like us to think it provides rigorous training that gives our city some of the finest law enforcement officers in the land.

In fact, they claim to put prospective recruits through an intense screening process that weeds out many interested persons who might want to wear the uniform of a Chicago Police officer.

But once you get in, it seems you’re virtually a shoo-in to pass and get a job. The newspaper found that some 97 percent of people accepted to the Police Academy wound up graduating.

By comparison, some 86 percent of people graduating is more the average, according to a Justice Department study of about 600 police academies across the country.

THE TRIBUNE ALSO pointed out that in Los Angeles, as many as 25 percent of police academy students don’t finish – although in many cases that is because applicants change their minds and drop out voluntarily.

Who’s to say just how rigorous the training for a Chicago police officer truly is? It reminds me of a moment from that 1987 film where actor Kevin Costner gave us his take on Eliot Ness and “The Untouchables” where he and actor Sean Connery’s Malone character were interviewing a would-be cop who stuttered his way through some questioning, causing Connery/Malone to respond, “There goes the next chief of police.”

I’d like to think that was just a cheap-shot gag in a decades-old film. Although with such new findings, who’s to say that our city’s future officers will be the “best and brightest” we’d like to think we could attract.

Then again, with so many other funds going to pay for studies that likely will never be turned to for use, who’s to say what the future of law enforcement is here – largely because we seem determined to let the political gamesmanship set policy rather than what would truly be beneficial to the people at-large.


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