Friday, January 20, 2017

Standing Ovation for Police at Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch Meeting

Cops need support more than ever, policeman says

By Tim Hadac
Managing Editor
Southwest Chicago Post

The standing ovation that Chicago Police Officer Chris Barajas received Monday night at a Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch meeting was by no means the first of his career, but the popular policeman was grateful nonetheless.

“Police need your support, now more than ever,” Barajas told an audience of about 50 people at the GRNW’s first meeting of the year, held at the firehouse at 56th and Narragansett. “We’re getting scrutinized more than ever, and we need you to back us. That’s important to us, more than you know. This organization is doing a good job of supporting us. Keep at it. Don’t slow down. We’re going to need it. We can’t do without it.”
Officer Barajas gets a hug of gratitude from GRNW supporter Mary Shilney.

Standing with the aid of a walker due to recent knee-replacement surgery, Barajas spoke briefly about what he called a new and adversarial environment, in part because of fallout from the just-released U.S. Department of Justice report critical of the Emanuel Administration’s law enforcement methods in the city.

“We’re just going to have to deal with it,” Barajas said as he mentioned tightening of restrictions in how police fight crime. “We always find a way to adapt, to adjust.”

Barajas asked that everyone consider giving their names when they call 911 and stepping forward as witnesses when they see or hear something that could prove useful in solving crimes.

“I know everyone’s conditioned to call 911 and remain anonymous,” he said. “But I’m telling you, give your name. You are a legit witness for us. The more people call in and give their names, the stronger our case is against the bad guys—and the more likely they’ll go elsewhere next time [they consider committing a crime].”

He also touched on what he described as an erosion of respect of police among some people—especially young people. As a number of audience members grew wide-eyed and shook their heads in disgust, Barajas described several recent arrests in which young suspects spat on him and other officers.

“That’s what we’ve come to, unfortunately,” Barajas said. “This is what we have to deal with now.”

“We know it, our group knows it, everybody in the community knows it—we love our police and our firefighters,” GRNW President Al Cacciottolo said as the audience stood and applauded Barajas. “Day in and day out, they do an awesome job, and we are grateful.”

Cacciottolo also thanked his firehouse hosts for their hospitality, which included serving genuine firehouse chili to everyone in attendance on a cold night.

Mayor Sergio Rodriguez (left) and GRNW President Al Cacciottolo.
The audience also applauded Summit Mayor Sergio Rodriguez, who spoke briefly and pledged his village’s ongoing cooperation with CPD and the GRNW in fighting crime on both sides of Harlem Avenue.

The GRNW’s next public meeting will be held in March. The group also is planning an interactive self-defense seminar in February. Details will be announced soon in the Southwest Chicago Post.

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