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Steinberg: Rahm kicks the can, again

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Rahm Emanuel thinks you’re stupid.

Don’t feel bad. It’s not just you. He thinks I’m stupid too. You, me and everyone else in the city, apparently.

Not without reason of course. Often we are stupid. Credulous, easily distracted, oblivious to the real problems before us, nevermind their difficult solutions.

Take his performance last week over the ongoing scandal that is the Chicago Police Department.

So Rahm rushes home from his vacation in Cuba. And does what? He announces that police will be equipped with more Tasers and be trained more in crisis intervention to “de-escalate” situations.

Problem solved, right? Give police more equipment, make ‘em take a course, and we’ll all be living on Sesame Street.

Anyone believe that? Show of hands?

Nobody? That’s a comfort. Maybe not so stupid. It was a classic Rahm kick-the-can-down-the-road ploy and if you need proof of how inadequate it was, let me draw your attention to the howl of protest that didn’t go up at the announcement. You know a move does nothing when the police, who cry at a touch, are largely mum.

OPINION

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Though I heard from a number of cops after I wrote about the crisis, and while there was the usual venting of malice at anyone who would criticize the police — some guys are so used to having their asses kissed they think it’s their birthright — most were sincere and thoughtful, bringing up all the holes in the mayor’s supposed solution. Tasers might prevent a few people who would ordinarily be shot from being shot; OR they might increase the tendency to apply force to anyone in front of you.

“You might be surprised to read that I actually agree that there is an issue with many police shootings,” wrote a lieutenant from the 8th District (I’m not using names because I don’t want them to regret writing).

“If an officer responds to a call of a person walking down the street with a weapon (insert whatever weapon you wish) and a police officer pulls up very near a person matching that particular description at that location, any movement by that subject whether it be reaching for an ID, raising his arms, turning away, or even moving toward the officer, is likely to be seen as threatening.”

Meanwhile, training was mocked.

“All I remember about CIT [crisis intervention training] is the catered lunch at the end,” one officer sneered on a cop blog discussing my column.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think better training alone will reduce police brutality,” Redditt Hudson, a former St. Louis police officer, wrote in the Washington Post. “My fellow officers and I took plenty of classes on racial sensitivity and on limiting the use of force. The problem is that cops aren’t held accountable for their actions, and they know it. These officers violate rights with impunity.”

A reminder that while the situation is bad in Chicago, we’re not alone. This is a national problem, one that, given Rahm’s non-action, will get worse before it gets better. Investigations of police-involved shootings just got more confused, not less. Officers said that rather than improving investigations, a new law that went into effect Jan. 1, “The Police and Community Relations Improvement Act,” muddies the situation. Senate Bill 1304 creates guidelines for body cameras and procedures for police shootings, but the police aren’t sure how to implement it.

“As of last night when I left work, there is not any CPD order out that outlines our duties when this type of police shooting occurs,” one officer wrote. “Our sergeants have attempted to contact the bosses in the detective division for answers and no one has them. I can tell you that none of us detectives want [to] handle them anymore. This has very serious ramifications.”

The officer said it appears that the police are being put under Independent Police Review Authority jurisdiction.

“Is this what the city wants? IPRA investigators have no police powers or training except a joke of a 40-hour lead homicide investigator course from our academy,” the detective said. “Hardly seems like the training needed to investigate something so serious, does it?”

The officer expressed what has to be a common sinking feeling in the pit of many police stomaches as the New Year begins.

“I have no doubt that the bosses and Rahm are prepared to hang us in the wind.”

No doubt. It may be some comfort that, at the moment, the mayor is hanging out there already, buffeted by gales of criticism. Because people really aren’t stupid, despite what Rahm Emanuel thinks.

Tweets by @NeilSteinberg

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