Sneed: Some cops in police News Affairs office have stories of their own

Written By By Michael Sneed Posted: 02/23/2014, 02:35am
Array ** ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, JAN. 18 **Civil rights leader and political activist Timuel Black speaks in his Chicago apartment Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009. The teacher and author and his wife, Zenobia Johnson-Black, will attend President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration as guests of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Stop the presses!

Is the Chicago Police Department’s News Affairs division becoming a dumping ground for cops involved in federal lawsuits alleging use of excessive force and brutality?

Sneed is told at least three of the nine police officers in the CPD’s News Affairs department have been accused in federal lawsuits of excessive force — before being parked in the press office at the cop shop.

◆ Backshot: Just recently, former News Affairs Officer Laura Kubiak filed a federal suit against the city claiming she got reassigned to overnight patrol in a dangerous district after complaining she was verbally assaulted in the workplace by a news affairs co-worker, Officer Veejay Zala.

◆ Upshot: Zala is also the defendant in two federal lawsuits alleging use of excessive force, which were subsequently settled out of court.

◆ Slapshot: Two other officers in the press office have also faced similar claims, although one of the cases was deemed a nuisance suit.

◆ Penalty: One of them, Officer Jose Estrada, had his lawsuit go to trial. The federal jury found he used excessive force and falsified police reports!

◆ Huh? Does the CPD think only tough cops can handle tough reporters?

Police spokesman Adam Collins claims it’s an “overstep” to describe the News Affairs office as a dumping ground. “There have been no sustained allegations of excessive force, investigated by the Independent Police Review Authority or Internal Affairs, against any of these officers,” he said.

“We make requests for resumes from people interested in working for News Affairs, do an interview, and make a decision based on those skills.”

Now there’s an answer.

The Polar Plunge . . .

Finally, a chance to tell politicians to go jump in the lake!

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is the first mayor in recent Chicago history to take the Polar Plunge on behalf of the Special Olympics Chicago athletes — but Sneed hears only one candidate running for governor has chosen to dip his toes in the freezing water at North Avenue Beach on March 2.

The brave GOPer is gubernatorial hopeful Bill Brady!

◆ To wit: Neither Gov. Pat Quinn nor gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner, the motorcycling man’s man, have signed up for the frozen follies.

Sports short . . .

Love that Telander: My buddy, Sun-Times sports columnist extraordinaire Rick Telander, wrote the script narrated by 95-year-old Timuel Black, a former basketball player whose grandparents were slaves, for a documentary airing 5 p.m. Sunday on CBS called “Court of Change.”

◆ Hoop scoop: It’s about how basketball helped change the course of African-American history and is produced by local director/producer Rich Gentile.

I spy . . .

Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan was spotted at uber-popular Abigail’s American Bistro in Highland Park — as was Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and wife, Kristin Cavallari, who Instagrammed a photo of her getting ready for their “date night” dinner . . . Actors William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum, the stars of “Shameless,” dined separately last Monday and together last Tuesday at David Burke’s Primehouse.

Warbler woe . . .

Pity the poor songbirds scrambling for food in this record cold and continuous snowfall!

◆ Explanation: Although the snow is melting, more is on the way . . . “and its been the intense snowfall that’s covered up the songbird’s natural food supply,” said Tim Joyce, who manages the Wild Birds Unlimited shop in Glenview — and is Sneed’s avian advisor.

◆ Bird seed: “It was cutting off the food supply for cardinals, chickadees, juncos, white-throated sparrows, and finches . . . who are seed eaters and are having a very tough time,” said Joyce. All the snow has produced a run on birdseed, bought by people concerned about the birds’ plight: “It got so bad, we literally ran out of birdseed one day a few weeks ago,” Joyce said.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday’s birthdays: Drew Barrymore, 39; Kyle MacLachlan, 55, and David Axelrod, 59 . . . Sunday’s birthdays: Peter Fonda, 74; Aziz Ansari, 31, and Emily Blunt, 31.

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