Mayor Daley: The Buck Stops There

Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley is an impressive and formidable politician. The man has incredible support in the city and elsewhere throughout the Chicagoland area.

The secret to his success? Govern-by-Whining. And it’s never his fault.

The latest incidents that have left Daley bewildered are the gang-related shootings last week at the Taste of Chicago. From the Sun-Times:

Mayor Daley and a ranking alderman were demanding answers for the gang-related shootings that left one dead and three wounded Thursday night.

And the department itself now acknowledges it needs to do a better job next year.

“I don’t know if he blew it, but I can tell you that there was unprecedented violence at the Taste of Chicago, and it was on his watch,” Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), chairman of the Police and Fire Committee, said of police Supt. Jody Weis.

Alderman Carothers wants to blame someone for gun violence in Chicago. He and Mayor Daley are “demanding answers.”

Pols love to point fingers. Somebody has to take the fall.  Daley is pointing the finger at Police Supt. Jody Weis.  The Sun-Times again:

The mayor held a heated one-on-one meeting with his new superintendent Monday — followed by at least two sessions that included other agency chiefs — to find out why police were apparently overwhelmed by gangs and crowds at Taste of Chicago.

“It wasn’t quiet,” a mayoral confidante said of Daley’s tone.

It was clear, even to the rookie superintendent, that “things didn’t go as planned” after the shooting of four people — one fatally — as the crowd from the city’s July 3 fireworks and concert was dispersing.

But, Weis was “searching for reasons other than police work” for the violence and, what patrons have called, an “intimidating atmosphere” at this year’s Taste that threatens to destroy a marquee event and burst Daley’s Olympic bubble.

“He was trying to say, ‘We did everything we could’ to control the problems. The response [from Daley] was, ‘Like hell,'” the source said.

“Why weren’t large groups dispersed more quickly? Why did it get to a point where people felt intimidated? In years past, the same groups came to the Taste. But police work was such that the bad guys didn’t get a chance to act out. Why did it get to that point this time?”

When Daley is at his best, he makes it clear there are no easy answers, and there are no easy answers here.  Sadly, Daley’s focus is on the 2016 Olympics, not the underlying problems that contribute to violence.  Why else would he be so upset about shootings at the Taste when this kind of thing happens every day in neighborhoods south of the Loop?  Where has his outrage been hiding?

The police are the first line  of defense, and, all too often, the last line.  But what can we do to lessen the need for this defense?

The problem of violence in America is much more complex than a lack of police. We can’t solve the excessive violence in this country by passing more laws, and we can’t blame the men and women in blue because there are bad guys and gals on our streets. As I’ve said before, we have serious problems with guns in this country. I will not be naive and suggest that we ban guns. That discussion will go nowhere, and I don’t believe it will ever happen.

Rather, we must explore the reasons we shoot each other. We can talk about poverty. We can talk about drugs. We can talk about domestic violence, and gangs, and lack of family values. We can talk about gangs, why people join gangs.

And we should. We should seriously have numerous discussions about all of these things. We have to realize that we all are part of the gang. Gang members are not the nebulous “others” from Lost. Many leaders of gangs already live among us in the suburbs, outside of Chicago. They take care of their lawns, feed the dog, and run a gang. They are already our neighbors, and we don’t even know it.

We are all part of the problem. We are all part of the solution. The buck stops here, with all of us.

Blaming the police for gang violence is, well, a copout.

Two in Chicago won’t see July 4

I guess I don’t understand the charm of handguns.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Two people were shot, one in the head in the Loop late Thursday as thousands of people streamed out of downtown after the city’s Fourth of July fireworks display and the Taste of the Chicago.

Both shootings occurred about 10:40 p.m. roughly a block apart, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said.

This is as good as time as any to reflect once again on the proliferation of guns in our society.  The clock has only recently passed the midnight hour here in Chicagoland, and already two are dead.

I spoke with a local member of our police force yesterday evening.  I asked him, informally, what he thought of last week’s Supreme Court decision striking down the ban on handguns in Washington, D.C.  Did he think there should be more gun control?

He said, as I might have expected, that the current laws should be enforced.

And I agree.

The problem in our society is not that we have too many guns.  It’s that we use them too many damn times.  We need to control ourselves.  We need to find more effective ways of handling conflict.  We need to learn how to channel the rage we feel sometimes.

Yes, the answers lie in the schools, in the media, in the churches, in the family, in the neighborhoods, in congress, in state legislatures…, and many other places as well.

But the answer to gun violence begins the next time any one of us feels angry, and every time after that as well.

One of the Good Guys was Shot Today

Officer Richard FrancisOfficer Richard Francis left us today. A 60-year-old Vietnam War combat veteran, the first Chicago police officer shot to death in the line of duty since 2002, Francis died today as he struggled with a mentally ill woman who grabbed his gun and shot him in the head.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

Francis, a 27-year police veteran, was alone on patrol in a squad car when a CTA bus driver flagged him down.

The CTA driver was worried about a woman at a bus stop who became verbally abusive when the eastbound bus stopped on Belmont to let passengers out.

The driver did not open the doors and honked the horn to flag down Francis, who stopped to help, Belmont District Cmdr. John Kenny said.

The woman struggled with Francis and grabbed his revolver, shooting him once. She was shot after threatening the officers who responded to Francis’ call for backup, police said.

“Police said.” The journalist’s disclaimer that everything is alleged at this point.

And it is.

The only thing that is not alleged today is that Officer Richard Francis, 60, is dead.

Mayor Daley said Francis’ death is a “sad reminder of how much gratitude we owe to the men and women of the Chicago Police Department.”

Amen, Mayor. Amen.

“It’s a tragic loss for his family. It’s a terrible loss for the Chicago Police Department,” police Supt. Jody Weis said outside the hospital. “It’s a stark reminder of what the dangers that the officers of this department face every day.”

And “Amen” again.

Again from the Sun-Times:

“I don’t think he would ever quit,” said a lifelong friend, Tom Casey. “They’d have to force him off.”

[…]

“Before he was married, he would volunteer to take holidays so the cops with families could take time off,” Casey said. “That’s the type of guy he was.”

And again from friend, Tom Casey:

Francis preferred to work at night, when there was more action, Casey said. He started in the East Chicago District where Cabrini-Green is located.

“It was a rough neighborhood, but he liked it,” Casey said.

Francis married his wife, Deborah, about 10 years ago, Casey said.

“The children weren’t biologically his, but he raised them,” said Barbara Rehn, who lives across the street. “He called them his ‘kids’ and they called him ‘dad.’ ”

From Susan Fracek:

“I have two siblings who are Chicago Police officers,” said Susan Fracek, who lives near Francis’ home. “It’s incredibly hard.”

“He was a wonderful guy,” she said.

“It was hard to believe he was a cop,” added Casey. “His demeanor was so calm and polite and funny. Knowing this guy, he was probably trying to help this woman.”

They seem so cold sometimes, the police. We slow down when we see them driving near us, watch carefully in the rear view mirror if they’re following us.

But they’re human. All of them.

Today, one of them breathed his last.

And he’s gone forever.

One of the good guys was shot today.

He died.

And we are less for it.

Three young women were shot…

The sad news from today’s Chicago Sun-Times:

Three young women were shot and wounded while sitting on a porch early Sunday on the South Side.

Officers responded to a person shot at 2:20 a.m. at the 2900 block of East 87th Street and found three females, 16, 18 and 20, who were shot on a porch, according to South Chicago District police.

Were you expecting to hear they died? I was too, when I first read the headlines. I was expecting more bad news.

The girls are listed in fair but “stable” condition.

This is bad news. We have a serious problem with guns in this country. I will not be naive and suggest that we ban guns. That discussion will go nowhere, and I don’t believe it will ever happen.

Rather, we must explore the reasons we shoot each other. We can talk about poverty. We can talk about drugs. We can talk about domestic violence, and gangs, and lack of family values.

And we should. We should seriously have numerous discussions about all of these things.

But the fact remains that we have a serious problem with violence in this country. This is the most violent country in the world outside a war zone, and even then there’s room for competition.

We have to ask ourselves why it is so easy for us to kill each other — or die trying.