Chicago officials are deflecting blame for the city’s epidemic of murders this year. When local media outlets reported news of the 500th murder of the year yesterday, the city’s PR department immediately issued a statement saying it was untrue because a previous homicide had been reclassified. City Hall’s resistance to accept the tragic milestone became useless only 2 hours later when officials acknowledged that yet another murder had occurred.
Mayor Emanuel and Chicago officials
Upon hearing the news of Chicago’s 500th homicide yesterday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called it, “an unfortunate and tragic milestone, which not only marks a needless loss of life, but serves as a reminder of the damage that illegal guns and conflicts between gangs cause in our neighborhoods.”
It’s ironic that the city’s highest ranking official would lay 100% of the blame for the spike in murders on two inanimate objects, when statistics are suggesting the murder rate may be at least partly tied to corruption inside the Mayor’s own City Hall.
It wouldn’t be the first time. One example is when Chicago transitioned from “the bloody ‘80’s” into the 1990’s, a decade even more deadly. The spike in homicides also coincidentally correlates with the election of the city’s new Mayor at the time, Richard Daley. As corruption spread, the homicide rate skyrocketed.
Dominating the headlines literally since the day Mayor Daley left office, not published out of fear until then, has been the 2004 case of one Chicago area kid who was apparently murdered by Mayor Daley’s own nephew and namesake, Richard J. Vanecko. Contrary to witness statements at the time, Chicago Police determined that the Mayor’s nephew was the victim and the dead kid was the assailant.
Specifically, they said the 21 year-old, 5’5”, 140 pound David Kochman had attacked the 29 year-old, 6’3”, 230 pound Vanecko. Of course, the fact that the Mayor’s nephew, Vanecko, was the only one to throw a punch in the altercation, a punch that killed David Kochman, wasn’t enough to give police officials pause in their effort to cover-up the murder.
A special prosecutor has since returned an indictment for RJ Vanecko and is investigating Chicago Police officers and the State’s Attorney’s office for additional co-conspirators. It took 8 years for the cover-up to be exposed.
As if that one example weren’t enough, Mayor Emanuel and the city where just humiliated over the past two weeks when a separate trial ruled that the Chicago Police Department is corrupt to its core, from top to bottom, and enlists a mandated “code of silence” that exists specifically to protect crooked cops and criminals within the city’s police force and City Hall. The case stemmed from an incident in 2007 in which a drunk, 6-foot tall, 260 pound Chicago Police officer named Anthony Abbate violently beat a less than 5-foot tall, 115 pound little Polish girl named Karolina Obrycka within an inch of her life. With the police officer drunkenly punching, stomping and kicking the poor girl as she lie helpless on the floor, the entire episode was caught on video tape.
Another thing that was documented, by more than 30 witnesses, was the Chicago Police Dept’s cover-up of the incident, its terror and intimidation campaign against the victim and the person who held the videotape, and a court’s ruling that the City of Chicago and its police force had a culture of corruption and a “code of silence” that protected criminals like Abbate and Vanecko.
While Chicago’s local media outlets, owned by multi-national corporations on Wall Street with connections to City Hall, continue to point the finger at the police and the Mayor, they would do well to look in the mirror. Nothing symbolizes Chicago’s culture of corruption and cover-ups more than the city’s local media. Two incidents demonstrate that accusation – one old, one new.
Killed on Camera
In a case that cost Chicago taxpayers $3 million dollars in settlements, Chicago police officer Alvin Weems was caught on a half dozen CTA cameras shooting and killing an unarmed, innocent man at point blank range while inside a Chicago train station in broad daylight with dozens of witnesses. The incident occurred in 2003. After viewing all the surveillance footage, every single police official involved documented and testified that the victim, Michael Pleasance, led a group of violent men who lunged at Officer Weems, punching him and attempting to forcibly take his gun.
The responding police officers documented that version of the story in their reports. The responding detectives did the same. The homicide investigators did too. Police supervisors officially agreed, as well as the Assistant Deputy Superintendent of Police and the President of the police union. Unfortunately, the truth was, and the videos and witnesses proved, that Michael Pleasance was simply standing and talking to Officer Weems when Weems inexplicably drew his weapon and shot Pleasance to death. Pleasance hadn’t lunged, grabbed, pushed, punched or even so much as flinched. But every single police and city official was caught documenting a false story that claimed the exact opposite.
Not one of the dishonest officials was brought up on charges, even though the city’s internal affairs department recommended legal action and firings, and Officer Weems was actually promoted to Detective. In a demonstration of karma, as well as Chicago’s murder epidemic, last year Officer Alvin Weem’s body was found in his home, shot to death.
Read the article, ‘Killed on Camera’ for more information and to see the actual CTA video of the murder with narration by the Chicago Reader, the independent news outlet responsible for exposing the horrifying cover-up. As for the city’s other news outlets – not a word.
Latin Kings infiltrate the CPD
Showing that the more things change, the more they stay the same, readers need only go to page 25 of yesterday’s Chicago Sun Times. Buried far inside the independent-leaning newspaper is Thursday’s court sentencing of Alex Guerrero. Sentenced to 19 years in prison, Guerrero pled guilty to being a member of both the Chicago Police Department and the notorious Latin Kings street gang – at the same time. He and his partner used their badges to enter homes, robbing them of guns, money and drugs, and delivering them to the Latin Kings.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only such incident. Tragically, it isn’t even the only incident from yesterday’s local Chicago paper. In the same edition of the same Sun Times is another story, one that documents how another Chicago Police officer, Jerome Finnigan, admitted to shaking down drug dealers, robbing homes and even ordering a hit on a fellow Chicago police officer, all while he was a cop for the CPD.
Jody Weis and his untouchables
‘Out with the new and in with the old’ – that was the first line of this column’s March 2011 article detailing the exit of newly-hired Jody Weis as Chicago’s Police Superintendent. Weis, a former FBI agent and virtual outsider, was hired by Mayor Daley to clean up the corruption in Chicago’s police department. From day one however, the uncorruptable former G-Man was at odds with the entire force, as well as City Hall.
Weis did what he was hired to do. He demoted corrupt police commanders and replaced them with officers he believed were honest. To show just how rampant the corruption is, Weis removed 21 of 25 district commanders, as well as a number of top brass. And while the rank and file officers complained about his crime fighting within the force, Chicago’s murder rate dropped to the lowest level since 1965.
Read, ‘Police Superintendent Weis deserves City’s thanks’ for details.
When Weis’ short 2-year employment contract was up in early 2011, Mayor Daley refused to renew or extend it. With that, the honest FBI police chief was out and Terry Hillard, the former Police Superintendent and a favorite of the police force as well as the Democratic Machine, was back in. Things, it seemed, were back to normal. And that normal has historically included violence, murder, crooked cops and City Hall cover-ups.
Murder capital of America
There are two ways to look at murder rates – by the number of homicides and the percentage based on overall population. And for Chicago, both numbers look bad. So bad in fact, that in August of this year Chicago Magazine ran the headline, ‘Murder Capital of America?’
Comparing the murder rates of Chicago and New York, NBC News reports today that while the Big Apple had 414 homicides to date, the Windy City had hit the 500 mark. While those numbers don’t look too different from each other, the network points out that New York has more than 3-times the number of citizens as Chicago. Taking that into account, Chicago actually has more than 3-times as many murders per resident as New York. For every 100,000 citizens, New York registered 5.02 homicides, while Chicago notched 18.50 homicides.
The bloody 90’s and the 1974 record
Actually, the historically documented term is ‘the bloody 80’s’ – describing Chicago’s spike in violence and murder with the introduction of crack cocaine and the realignment of Chicago’s entire street gang system of alliances that occurred in the late 1980’s. But the 1990’s turned out to be even deadlier.
In all fairness, this year’s 500+ murders in Chicago pale in comparison to 1992 when the city logged 943 homicides. Even with the city’s larger population, that number presented a ratio of 34 murders per 100,000 residents. For those curious, the record for the most murders in Chicago in one year is 1974 when the city buried 970 of its own residents. But at the time, the city had a population of over 3 million people, so the murder rate was actually only 29 per every 100,000 people, lower than the 34 in 1992 but higher than the 18 this year.
So while Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago police department continue to blame guns and street gangs for Chicago’s growing murder rate, the city actually has less of both these days. In fact, if Mayor Emanuel wants to find a scapegoat for the spike in homicides, he may just want to add his own name to this list. Immediately upon taking office two years ago, he disbanded the gang crimes units and used the men to fill gaps in street patrols. Instead of hiring new cops to fill the shortage, the new Mayor transferred crossing guards and office workers to beat patrol. City Hall claimed it had increased the number of officers on the force. But police union officials insist it is a lie – the Mayor simply moved cops around and changed their titles, giving the appearance of additional officers.
And instead of taking the court’s ruling for what it is – an indictment of the Chicago police force and the City Hall that supervises it – Rahm Emanuel continues to deny it. He could have honestly said the culture of corruption is a relic of the Daley administration and things are different now. But he didn’t. Maybe, because things really aren’t different now. The city’s skyrocketing murder rate would suggest that.
Chicago has thee strictest gun control law in the nation, as well as a dwindling street gang population. So the Mayor and Police Superintendent’s argument doesn’t seem to add up. The only thing that appears to be linked to Chicago’s growing homicide rate is the growing corruption.
This column is often critical of the Chicago Police Department. But that’s only due to 4 decades of corruption headlines and a lifetime of personal experiences to back it up. The fact is, police officers have the hardest job in the world, with the exception of the bomb squad or special forces maybe. They don’t get paid enough and in Chicago, they don’t get the respect many of them deserve. There are honest and sincere cops on the force. But City Hall’s mandated “code of silence”, as the courts have just confirmed, forces good cops to go bad. And in a city that is usually considered to be the most corrupt in America, a skyrocketing murder rate shouldn’t only be blamed on guns and gangs.
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