Battle over city police

By Darryl Holliday

Chants of “More police, no Weis” could be heard blocks away from Chicago’s police headquarters at 3510 S. Michigan Ave., during a rally on Sept. 15, at which members of the Chicago Police Department displayed their disappointment with Police Superintendent Jody Weis.

Led by the Fraternal Order of Police, the rally drew hundreds of officers, potential mayoral candidates and city residents to demand that Weis resign immediately.

A range of issues were presented, from the shortage of city police officers to pure outrage over Weis’s effect on the CPD, which officers said include a widespread drop in morale and a feeling that Weis has sold out some of their own, such as in the case of Officer William Cozzi, who violently beat a man handcuffed to a wheelchair in 2005.

Officers say Cozzi was made to pay for the same crime twice when Weis, a former FBI agent, referred his case to the FBI after Cozzi had already pleaded guilty to a state misdemeanor. In an open letter posted on the CPD ClearPath website Sept. 10, Weis denied doing this, stating “the U.S. Attorney’s Office had already been investigating the matter.”

The dispute between a segment of city police officers and the superintendent has been on-going for some time. Some officers see Weis as an outsider who is out of touch with the needs of city officers. Weis has never been a Chicago police officer.

With Mayor Richard M. Daley’s recent announcement he would not seek re-election, the superintendent’s future employment with the CPD is uncertain. Weis could not be reached for comment at press time. A spokesperson for the superintendent’s office said no comment has been released regarding the Fraternal Order of Police rally.

According to Mark Donahue, president of FOP, the rift between FOP and Weis began developing within months of his of first day as superintendent in February 2008.

In the open letter, Weis stated he has “led [the] department in a manner which—on many issues—reflects what the membership has asked for.”

Donahue however, disagrees.“Apparently the superintendent has not gotten the message about the lack of confidence in him from the members of the Chicago Police Department,” Donahue said.

He also noted the CPD is down approximately a thousand officers due to Chicago’s budget constraints.

So far this year, seven officers have been shot while on duty—three fatally.

According to John Castaneda, a retired officer of 32 years, the police department is budgeted for 13,500 officers, yet only approximately 9,000 are currently on the streets. “So where’s the money going?” Castaneda asked during the rally.

Aside from police supporters of the rally, Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd Ward) and civil rights attorney Christopher C. Cooper, a confirmed mayoral candidate, were present to lend their voices to the already strident chorus of marchers.

“People don’t understand this is a 24/7 job and these guys, these gals, don’t have enough resources,” Fioretti said. “They need the backing of the next mayor—they need a good superintendent.”

Cooper claims Weis is unqualified for the job.

“He doesn’t know the first thing about police work,” said Cooper, a former Washington metropolitan police officer. “It’s time for him to leave.”

According to Detective Joe Struck, who’s been with the CPD for 21 years, assaults on officers are up 20 percent.

“We have a lot of problems,” Struck said. “We have a manpower shortage. People and officers are getting hurt.”

Twenty-year veteran of the CPD and FOP Trustee Rhonda Bullock, who currently resides in Chatham—where Officer Thomas Wortham was shot dead in May outside of his home—worries about her son leaving their home.

“If they’ll kill a uniformed police officer, they’ll kill anyone,” Bullock said.

As for an adequate police force on Chicago’s streets, Donahue said he doesn’t know what the number would be.

“Do you want no murders at all—zero murders?” Donahue said. “Or what’s an acceptable level of crime? I don’t think we’d be able to define that, so I don’t think we’d be able to define what an acceptable number of police officers would be to keep the city safe.”