Letters: Off-duty cops shouldn’t wear uniforms

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Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) has proposed an ordinance that Chicago Police Department officers should be allowed to wear their uniforms while working as private security downtown. The alderman says that the presence of more off-duty officers in uniforms will turn the tide against the recent spike in crime. This ordinance will place an unnecessary burden on the already-stressed officers, and furthermore will not work as the Alderman intends. We only need to look at two of the most recent murders of CPD officers to see why.

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In May, 2010, Officer Michael Bailey was coming off duty and had just returned to his house when he was held up at gunpoint. In his uniform, and after identifying himself as Chicago Police, Officer Bailey was killed while exchanging gunfire with his assailant. In December, 2011, Officer Clifton Lewis was not in uniform, working as private security at a store that had recently been robbed. As two would-be robbers entered the store, one recognized Officer Lewis as a CPD officer from a previous encounter. Officer Lewis was killed in an exchange of gunfire with the two men.

Ald. Hopkins’ proposal would take advantage of what law professor, and former officer, Seth Stoughton calls the “blurred blue line.” The private groups doing the contracting benefit by projecting the authority vested in the officers wearing their CPD uniforms at their businesses. The city receives an unintended benefit because, while someone else is paying for the off-duty officers’ time, it appears as if the city is spending the money to put officers on the streets.

In the deaths of Officers Lewis and Bailey, we know that their assailants were aware that the both men were members of the CPD. Yet this knowledge did not serve as a deterrent to fatal violence.

Officers in Chicago and elsewhere often work security to supplement their incomes. But when they’re off-duty, they can still spring into official action, as was the case with Officer Lewis. Yet it was not the store, or the security firm, who paid the death benefits to Officer Lewis’ family. His death was compensated by the City, through the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund. What if one of these uniformed, off-duty officers exchanges gunfire in another attempted robbery and shoots a by-stander? Will Ald. Hopkins’ ordinance hold liable the private entity that brought in the officer or will the City again be on the hook?

This city and its men and women of the Police Department have been through so much in recent months. The videos of officers shooting civilians, the Homan Square allegations, daily gang violence, changes in leadership and civilian oversight, and protests against officers barely scratch the surface. In good faith, we can differ on proposals to reduce the city’s spike in violent crime. Let’s not continue to put the burden on over-worked officers by providing benefits to businesses while not reducing the risks that these officers face.

David Swedler, Andersonville

Make a rational choice

Those who vote for Donald Trump have great courage to willingly give the nuclear trigger to a man who has a vindictive, arrogant, grossly egotistical personality, and who constantly sees false conspiracies. Hopefully this country will make the rational choice.

Richard Schultz, professor emeritus, Loyola University Chicago

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