Opinion by John T. "Red" Ryan
FROM WHAT IS a personal point of view, we may draw on our 34-plus years in the "Glorious Blue" of the CPD. Our assignments were varied; although almost exclusively that of the uniform cop right up to our last port of call in Missing Persons. Looking back on those years we had worked with seven men who gave their lives. Though none were partnered with this writer when they came to the End of Watch, nonetheless, these men were who did their job, tackled whatever assignments that came their way by luck of the draw.
WE'D LIKE TO do a brief run down and salute to each of their memories. They were in pretty much chronological order: Joe Ferguson, John Gillhooly, Wendell Hicks, Martin Darcy, Larry Vincent and John "Corky" Lyons. All of them, except for the last named, were killed by gunfire, with Patrolman Lyons' death coming by way of a fatal auto accident. (On a personal note, John Lyons was a regular partner for some time and was the "big brother" I never had.)
IT HAS BEEN so stated, both in common law and in that which is legislated and written, that a peace officer is defined as, ".....a man or woman who is paid to devote full time to that which is the obligation of every citizen." In doing so while on a tour of duty (shift), it may appear that the cops are hassling folks, being nosy and maybe asking a lot of questions. Well, you may be shocked to hear this, but you are right! So much of being a street cop consists of doing just what we've just described. If the job is being done properly, the cops on the beat will be in and out of the prowl car, checking to see that everything's A-Okay ! There is also an old saying in cop talk circles that says; "If you aren't getting beefs (complaints against cop), you're not doing police work!" It is this last adage that is perhaps the key to so many of our problems with armed gang punks.
SOLVING THIS PROBLEM may not be as difficult as one may think. An increased awareness on the part of our citizenry would greatly improve the situation such as it is. The existence of our neighborhood watches has been a great tool in our creation of a safer, more peaceful and attractive place for residents and businesses alike. But the envelope must be pushed further along. Each household must be educated in how we are not components in achieving perfection, but rather excellence in our daily lives. (Remember, only God is perfect!) But we must consider yet another heretofore widely unrealized flaw in our citizens' makeup. That would be that they are just too doggone tolerant !
THIS SPECIFIC APPLICATION of the virtue known as tolerance is a narrow one and pertains to a very small yet overdeveloped area. We hereby serve notice that our own people are too damn docile and complacent when it comes to street crime in the city as well as the 'burbs. The nightly stick-ups, auto thefts, garage and residential burglaries as well as the general perception that one had better not venture too far from home after dark have become all too commonplace. Our neighborhood watch does its part in identifying trouble spots and in providing the Eighth District personnel with extra sets of eyes. But we have to take this "a giant step for mankind" ahead. Where to start and when is quite a simple answer. the "when" is immediately, if not sooner. The "where" requires a little more application of logistics.
UP TO NOW and for many years past, a citizens' group would air their complaints about the level of police service in one of two places. Some would confront their alderman at his haven (office) right there in the ward. That's not really a bad choice, but there are much better ones. A more common solution was to go over to the local police station and lay their gripes out for the district commander. (Often the commander would come out to a community meeting, as we've seen so often here in "the Ridge.") Either of these last two plans are and have been proven to be just "spinning the wheels." Whereas the alderman, our elected representative, does have great authority, neighborhood solutions don't occur out in the "backwoods."
AS FOR THE idea of taking the fight right to the Chicago Lawn Police Station, well that would be an even bigger waste of time. Those who would follow such a course of action give the Police Department a good deal more credit than it deserves as an being independently functioning organization. Not a single move or policy is put into place at Police HQ, 35th and Michigan's ivory tower, without the OK from City Hall. The department does not function on its own; but rather by closely adhering to whatever is the call from the Fifth Floor, City Hall (Mayor's Office).
WE CAN WELL recall from firsthand experience some years ago having seen and heard this expressed by a lieutenant/watch commander in the Deering (9th) Police District. A group from the Southwest Parish & Neighborhood Federation addressed the lieutenant with their complaints of under-staffing and deployment of officers in their community. Some got very "hot under the collar" when Lt. Friendly (or whatever his name) told them that their fight was with City Hall. He added honestly that he couldn't get one policeman more assigned to the district.
SO NOW, FELLOW citizens, let's do our best in supporting the neighborhood watch, our local constabulary and getting the word to our family, friends,neighbors and parishioners. Get your block organized (such as is the policy in the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch). Talk to your neighbors and please don't hesitate to call the old 911 wherever and whenever something just doesn't look kosher. Don't be shy about calling in suspicious conduct by anyone, particularly by strangers to the community. In just getting to know your neighbors better you'll already be ahead of the game.
AND PLEASE, PLEASE funnel the virtue of tolerance elsewhere other than to the acceptance of our city's high rate of violent crime as being unavoidable, an unchangeable fact of life. Get your displeasure known right downtown in City Hall. Let's do some mega hiring program going to get staffing of the CPD up to a higher level as it once had been. And let's not forget to have the new mayor (whomever he/she may be) get behind the cops' efforts in proactively suppressing the criminal and his anti-social behavior. This will result in a Chicago far different from our title of "Murder Capital, USA."
THIS WOULD BE a great service to everyone and to the memory of Police Officer Samuel Jimenez, who gave his life in service to all. May God love him and keep him! Somehow we're sure He already has!