Gangsters in Blue

A violent gang has recently been taken down in inner-city Chicago. Specifically, the city police recently decided to disband the Special Operations Section, a roaming squadron of over 100 cops which was created to fight inner-city gang crime and drug dealing. Problem is that the narcs themselves ended up running the most tightly organized, heavily armed, corrupt, and powerful racket in the neighborhood.

After weeks of worsening revelations about the Chicago Police Department’s elite Special Operations Section, a beleaguered interim superintendent finally pulled the plug Tuesday, disbanding the scandal-plagued unit and sending most of its officers back to more strictly supervised assignments.

The recent incidents of police misconduct, which include charges that SOS officers robbed and kidnapped people, and that one accused officer plotted to murder another, have been disheartening and demoralizing, especially for officers who serve honorably every day, interim Supt. Dana Starks said Tuesday at a news conference called to announce the abrupt disbanding of SOS.

… Once touted as one of the department’s most nimble and aggressive weapons for fighting street gangs, SOS has produced one black eye after another for the city and Daley’s administration over the last year, and especially in the last several weeks.

The units at the heart of the scandal were involved in street policing, rooting out gang and drug crimes in the roughest parts of Chicago.

… In August the Tribune revealed that the U.S. attorney’s office had joined the ongoing state probe that already had led to charges of robbery and kidnapping against seven officers in the unit.

Just weeks later, the FBI raided the home of Officer Jerome Finnigan, the alleged leader of the accused cops who was free on bail, and charged him with plotting to murder a former SOS officer who had begun aiding investigators.

Two days after the charges were announced, the Tribune published a video of SOS officers—including Finnigan— raiding a Southwest Side bar in 2004 and searching its patrons. The video contradicted the arrest reports and raised constitutional issues about the legality of the raid, in which arrest reports allegedly were falsified and victims said police robbed their homes while they were in custody.

At the end of last week, the department stripped three more officers of their police powers over the incident, and others were under investigation.

In joining the probe, federal investigators have focused not on the original alleged crimes, but on what commanders in SOS, and higher up in the department, may have known about the rogue activities. The Office of Professional Standards and the Internal Affairs Division had fielded numerous complaints about Finnigan and the other officers over the years but they were still on the street before prosecutors concluded their own investigation and brought charges.

… The SOS scandal has brought a growing chorus of questions about the quality of police oversight in the city. The scandal was part of the impetus behind Daley reorganizing the Office of Professional Standards during the summer. And aldermen are fighting the city over documents showing which officers have the most excessive force complaints, a list that is top-heavy with SOS officers.

— David Heinzmann and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons, Chicago Tribune 2007-10-09: Cops disband elite unit

But wait, there’s more.

This isn’t the first time that an elite anti-gang unit in the Chicago police force turned out to be engaged in organized crime as much as the gangs it was supposedly combating. The same damn thing happened only seven years ago:

It is not the first time in recent history that a corruption scandal has led to the disbanding of a special unit. In 2000 the Gang Crimes Section was disbanded after federal authorities charged Officer Joseph Miedzianowski with using gang members to run his own drug distribution ring. The FBI called Miedzianowski, now serving life in prison, the most corrupt cop in Chicago history.

When Gang Crimes was disbanded many of the officers in the unit, including Finnigan, were assigned to SOS.

— David Heinzmann and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons, Chicago Tribune 2007-10-09: Cops disband elite unit

So what do you suppose they are going to do now that SOS has been busted up?

Well, this is the government that we are talking about, and these are cops. Nobody in government ever gets fired, and nobody on the police force ever even gets blamed, unless and until they get indicted. So what’s going to happen is that are going to do the same goddamned thing that they did in 2000 and transfer the thugs from SOS over to yet another elite unit that does the same goddamned thing:

Some of the more than 100 SOS officers to be reassigned will join the Targeted Response Unit, which does similar work hunting guns and drugs in gang-infested areas. …

But SOS also included other specialized teams, including the SWAT team, marine, K-9, animal abuse and critical response units. Mounted patrol, a helicopter unit and officers trained to protect visiting dignitaries also were part of SOS. Those units are being reorganized into the newly named Special Functions Group, Starks said.

— David Heinzmann and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons, Chicago Tribune 2007-10-09: Cops disband elite unit

Somehow I expect that in about seven years or so the city government will once again be shocked! shocked! to learn that corruption and violence have pervaded the Targeted Response Unit or the Special Functions Group, which will be disbanded forthwith in favor of yet another identical unit under a different name.

Oh, but there’s more still!

A lot of the other former SOS cops are going back onto street patrols. But guess where an undisclosed number of them are getting transferred:

Although he declined to give numbers, Starks also said he was moving some officers into the Internal Affairs Division to beef the department’s ability to investigate its own officers.

— David Heinzmann and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons, Chicago Tribune 2007-10-09: Cops disband elite unit

I guess it takes a thief….

Meanwhile, the cops’ press flack, Monique Bond, is out to handle the PR problem. Look! It’s Yet Another Isolated Incident!

Officials also were trying to control the damage done to the department’s reputation.

Not everyone in SOS is a bad officer. You can’t paint this with a broad stroke, she said.

— David Heinzmann and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons, Chicago Tribune 2007-10-09: Cops disband elite unit

You could say exactly the same thing about the Bloods or the Crips. But so the fuck what?

(Story thanks to Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise 2007-10-10.)

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10 replies to Gangsters in Blue Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

· November 2007 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-11-09 – You got served and protected.:

    […] example, when the cops in Chicago aren’t too busy running elite criminal rackets, they have found another way to serve and protect the public: by forcing their way into an […]

· December 2007 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2007-12-21 – Rapists on patrol:

    […] GT 2007-10-13: Gangsters in Blue […]

— 2008 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-05-10 – Cops are here to protect you. (#3):

    […] how many times these same things happen, again and again, and no matter how often they are repeated within the same police department—or even at the same shift in the same office—and no matter how widely they are repeated […]

  2. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-07-14 – Gangsters in Blue (#2):

    […] is what the gangsters in blue do when you mess with their […]

— 2010 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2008-12-05 – Don’t turn your back on the Wolfpack:

    […] should say that when I refer to cops as a street gang or Gangsters in Blue or what have you, I’m not indulging in metaphor. I don’t mean that […]

— 2012 —

— 2014 —

  1. Discussed at nvcopblock.org

    Las Vegas: Beware of Gang Activity in Your Neighborhood! | Nevada CopBlock:

    […] in the community, and engaging either individually or collectively in violent or other forms of illegal behavior. Usually, gangs have gained the most control in poorer, urban […]

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