Posts tagged “Lt. John Andrews

“Secret Meeting” with Gang Members Runs Amuck in Chi-town

About 100 miles to the southeast of the laid-back, small town of Wales, Wisconsin–home to the Spingola Files HQ, the bustling city of Chicago seems worlds away. Yet the controversy surrounding Chicago’s Police Superintendent, Jody Weis, is reminiscent of a southeastern Wisconsin brouhaha that occurred nearly two-decades ago.

Through forwarded e-mails from those in law enforcement, as well as reports in the media, it appears that—at least amongst rank-and-file Chicago cops—Weis is as popular as a contagious virus. 

Mayor Richard M. Daley’s political machinery hired Weis, a 23-year veteran of the FBI, two-and-and-half-years ago.  Prior to becoming Chicago’s 54th Superintendent of Police, Weis was the FBI’s Assistant Deputy Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility—fancy terminology for being the second in command of  the FBI’s internal affairs unit.  In other words, he had no local law enforcement expreience. 

Members of Daley’s inner circle believed Weis would reform the Chicago PD, which, like many other big-city police departments had—rightly or wrongly—come under fire for a variety of issues.

The Daley machine’s experiment has apparently gone awry.

In late August, Chicago Police Lieutenant John Andrews disclosed that he is under investigation by the superintendent’s internal affairs unit for posting, to say the least, his not-so-complementary opinions of Weis on a personal blog. 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-police-officer-blog-20100825,0,1041713.story

In most police departments, internal affairs is the only unit that reports directly to the agency’s chief-of-police or superintendent, which means the investigation of Andrews is being overseen by Weis.  As such, there is little doubt regarding the investigation’s outcome, even though Andrews’ take appears to represent the majority of the Chicago PD’s rank-and-file.

It is, however, a meeting Weis recently arranged with Chicago street thugs that has become the lightning rod for critics, not just inside Chicago political circles, but throughout law enforcement in the Midwest.    

According to the Chicago Tribune, Weis, federal authorities, and others “secretly met with a group of West Side gang leaders at the Garfield Park Conservatory [in August], informing them over snacks and beverages that they would be held directly accountable for shootings and other violent crimes committed by their gangs.”

To many rank-and-file cops, especially those old enough to recall the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues, Weis’ sit down with street toughs appeared eerily reminiscent of Frank Firillo, the captain of the Hill Street precinct, who, on occasion, would bring local gang bangers into his office for discussions.  

A similar event almost occurred in Milwaukee in the early 1990s, when the administration of Phil Arreola, a police chief also hired from the outside, hinted at an outreach with members of the Conservative Vice Lords.  Popular conservative talk-show host Mark Belling had a field day with the notion, which kind-of just went away.  Others would say the idea was a trial balloon turned burning Zeppelin before it was officially ever floated.

Mitchell Nevin’s fictional book, The Cozen Protocol, portrays a comparable incident that appears ripped from the pages of the Arreola era (a suggestion to Mayor Daley: down load a copy to your i-Phone. The end result is not a positive one).

To be fair, Weis, on the other hand, portrayed the meeting with gang bangers as an opportunity to lay-down the law.  While appearing on WBBM radio’s At Issue program, (which airs tomorrow at 9:30 a.m.), the superintendent said he was “shocked and amazed” at the negative reaction.

http://wbbm.cbslocal.com/2010/09/03/top-cop-shocked-and-amazed-by-reaction-to-gang-meet/

 Mayor Daley, echoing the mantra often used to justify touchy-feely policies, told the Chicago Tribune the meeting was ‘worth pursuing if it could save a life.’

Critics, including myself, charge that arranging a “secret meeting” with gang members provides these groups with instant street creditability. Moreover, why was this meeting, if it was indeed such a solid concept, conducted under the shroud of secrecy?  My guess is that Chicago’s version of Mark Belling, if one does exist, might have created the spark needed to engulf Weis’ wobbly Zeppelin.

After all, wouldn’t a meeting with the good kids—those striving to do the right things in some of Chicago’s troubled neighborhoods—have been more productive and deserving of these public officials’ time, as well as the snacks and beverages given, for free, to the thug element?  

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Steven Spingola is a former Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective and the author of “The Killer in Our Midst: the Case of Milwaukee’s North Side Strangler” and “Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders.”

© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2010