The Chicago Syndicate: Corrupt Chicago Politicians Get Cops Killed and Put Public's Safety in Jeporady

Monday, July 19, 2010

Corrupt Chicago Politicians Get Cops Killed and Put Public's Safety in Jeporady

Chicago's political class can't admit to losing control. They dare not even hint at it, particularly the mayor, what with his election coming up and his poll numbers tanking. But just about every cop in the city must feel it, with the murder Sunday of veteran Chicago police Officer Michael Bailey outside his home. As do some people in the neighborhoods.

"The man was in uniform," said Marcus Burks, 35, a bricklayer and a father who was one of the first to run to Bailey after he'd been killed in the 7400 block of South Evans Avenue.

"A Chicago police officer gets shot to death outside his house, he's in full uniform, and he gets killed because some thugs want to rob his car on Sunday morning?" Burks asked me.

Detectives canvassed the neighborhood in the heat. And people sat out on their porches, watching, some fanning themselves in the shade.

"I saw him on the ground," Burks said. "You couldn't mistake him being the police. And still they try to rob him? They shoot him down? Tell me what happened to this city? Just think about that."

Bailey, 62, had just spent the night guarding Mayor Richard Daley's home.

Bailey hadn't been running through some night alley after felons or doing the kinds of things that get cops killed. It was a hot sunny morning, and he had a spray bottle of Windex in his hand.

He'd been polishing the windows of his new car, a black Buick, a gift to himself for his retirement that was supposed to take place in a couple of weeks. Neighbors said he polished the windows of that new car every morning, after he'd spend the night guarding the mayor's house.

So his attackers most likely confronted him knowing he was a cop. And now he's the third Chicago police officer killed in the last couple of months. On May 19, Officer Thomas Wortham was shot to death outside his home in the Chatham neighborhood, as thugs tried to steal his motorcycle. And on July 7, in the parking lot of a police facility near 61st Street and Racine Avenue, Officer Thor Soderberg, also in uniform, was killed with his own gun after a struggle with an attacker.

"This has just been a terrible year, and I don't remember anything this bad, maybe if you go back to the early '70s when we came on and we were losing, what, maybe 10 guys a year? And that was before bulletproof vests," former Chicago police Superintendent Phil Cline said.

We were in the parking lot of police headquarters at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue. Cline had just finished speaking to a group of a couple of hundred police and their families from across Illinois, part of a bike-athon that would take them to the Gold Star Memorial, with the names of fallen police on the wall.

I asked Cline and other former and current officers gathered there what had changed, if anything, with Bailey's slaying. They all said the same thing: Bailey was in uniform. And still they tried to rob him.

There was a time when the sight of the uniform alone would stop them. Not now. And that is transformation.

"I think what you're seeing is that the gangbangers have lost their fear of the police — and that's not a good thing," Cline said. "The balance we always wanted was that the good citizens in the neighborhood to like the police, the gangbangers to fear us. Evidently, we've lost that.

"And that's something the department is going to have to work on, to take back the street from these gangs. The city is going to have to bite the bullet and hire more police." But the mayor and his rubber-stamp council have spent all the money. There is no money. They spent it on deals for the guys who know guys who got their beaks wet.

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of deals went to the cronies. And now there's no money left to hire cops.

Police numbers are down. Cops are retiring at unprecedented rates. And there aren't enough young officers going through the academy to take their place. That puts even greater stress on sergeants and commanders.

Meanwhile, the mayor has a problem, and it's all about control. A new Tribune poll released Sunday shows that 53 percent of Chicago voters don't want Daley re-elected.

Sixty-eight percent disapprove of his handling of government corruption, with 13 percent offering no opinion. Figure that there are enough worried government workers in the 13 percent to make that 68 percent even greater. And 54 percent of voters disapprove of how he's handling crime, with 13 percent offering no opinion, so figure that 54 percent is higher than stated.

For almost 20 years, voters have shrugged off the corruption, figuring it was a price to pay for order. But voters finally understand that the cost of corruption has taken from funds available for public safety.

Politics and policing are a lot about public perception. And here's the one folks will have as they begin the work week on Monday: A veteran police officer in uniform, who spent the night guarding the mayor's house, shot to death outside his own home on Sunday morning, confronted by robbers while polishing his car, just weeks away from retirement.

Thanks to John Kass

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