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Slaying of Officer Ella French shows police need our support more than ever

‘She was like a lamb in the pit of vipers and jackals,’ says a retired Chicago police official.

A sign in tribute to slain Chicago Police Officer Ella French at 6686 N. Northwest Highway in Chicago.
Provided

Say her name.

‘Ella French’

The slaying last weekend of Chicago police Officer Ella French is as ugly as it gets on a hot night in a city sweating from sulfurous gun violence.

“She was like a lamb in the pit of vipers and jackals,” said a retired police official who asked not to be identified.

Her gun reportedly holstered, French was killed point-blank on a routine traffic stop in West Englewood on the city’s South Side, her partner now struggling with gunshot wounds to his head at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

What was new on that sweaty Saturday night wasn’t the bent knees of cops in a continuum of prayer outside the UIC emergency room and seventh-floor hospital lobby — but what they did with the rest of their collective body.

They turned away from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her administration while waiting vigil at the hospital, shunning her with an abrupt about-face, turning their backs and silently walking away.

Already excoriated by the victim’s father, a retired police officer, for the city’s lack of proper police support, the mayor listened respectfully and then turned toward the line of police in the hospital lobby. They ignored her.

The next day, a group of 300-plus police officers gathered at a McCormick Place roll call shunned a visit from Lightfoot.

Since the violent death of a Black man, George Floyd, at the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020, the cold eye of technology has fleshed into reality the gruesome and deadly treatment of people of color in our country by rogue cops.

Chicago police officers, now dealing with astronomical gang violence, gun proliferation and rising mortality rates, claim new legislation hampers their ability to do their jobs.

Street cops “are now dealing with what they believe is a culture of the police doing everything wrong,” said a former top cop.

“They are looking for direction, but they feel they are being directed out of their ability to be effective police officers,” a CPD employee said.

So what’s to be done?

Where do we go from here?

“I don’t think there is anything in a police officer’s DNA which would cause them to walk away or take a job action like the Chicago firemen did years ago,” said a top retired fire department source. “It’s in their DNA to serve and protect.

“But how many more people have to lose their lives in Chicago before we realize the police need their support?” said another police source.

“People are trapped or hiding in their homes; they feel they do not have a voice; afraid to drive their cars; or speak out because they will be targeted. Children are getting shot in cars in the midst of gang violence,” the top cop source said.

“It’s heartbreaking to know families all over the city are afraid because of the gun violence.

“When are the communities going to take action for themselves?

“How many more cops have to lose their lives before we realize police need our support. Enough lives have been lost in Chicago.

“We are only as good as a community or a city lets us be.”

Saying goodbye . . .

His name was Ed.

Edward W. Elliott Jr. to be precise.

And he was my friend.

Of Scot-Irish descent and the descendant of Catholics once raised in a very Protestant Northern Ireland, Ed’s funeral mass Aug. 7 contained a little Latin, a major thrust of incense, a soliloquy on friendships and a glint of Eagles wings, if you get my drift.

His late wife, Betty, also a working mom, was my best friend. We raised our boys during the “God Knows What’s Up” 1990s.

A monumentally successful entrepreneur scouring the world for gas and oil and gamefish, Ed became a walking medical encyclopedia before Betty succumbed to cancer nearly 20 years ago.

He continued netting entire families into his embrace as heartily as he had once caught and released gamefish.

Only he didn’t release us.

His youngest son, Tim, planned an exquisite funeral; his eldest son, Ed’s incredible eulogy compared his dad to a quote by Booker T. Washington:

“The happiest people are those who do the most for others. The most miserable are those who do the least.”

Saying goodbye to this complicated man was so sad — but quite frankly I’ve never seen so many self-made, successful “suits” tear up before and after a funeral in my life.

We will never release him.

Sneedlings . . .

Saturday birthdays: Halle Berry, 55; Mila Kunis, 38; Magic Johnson, 62; and Joe Bejlovec, priceless. . .. Sunday Birthdays: Chicago police chaplain Dan Brandt, 51; Joe Jonas, 32; Anthony Anderson, 51; Ben Affleck, 49; and a special birthday greeting to Bernie Wojtkiewicz, ageless and priceless, husband of the fabulous Colette and still kicking at 94!

Editor’s note: The column has been changed to reflect the correct status of Officer Ella French’s gun during the traffic stop.