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High-profile incidents put CPD in bad light

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The videotape showing the apparent beating of a bartender by an off-duty Chicago police officer is putting the department in a bad light across the country. The Chicago Police Department has not experienced intense scrutiny like this since the 1968 Democratic convention.

The Chicago police union president told ABC7 Wednesday afternoon the morale of rank-and-file officers has taken a "major hit" since the latest misconduct allegations surfaced. Two videotapes -- one seen, the other still held by investigators -- have not only embarrassed police but could set the stage for major changes at 35th and Michigan.

Thanks to the internet, the video has been seen throughout the country and countless places overseas. And with the repeated showing of an off-duty officer pummeling a female bartender half his size, the image of the Chicago Police Department has taken another severe beating worldwide.

"I spent 28 years as a police officer and I'm disgusted to witness this type of conduct," said Phil Cline, Chicago police superintendent.

Retired Chicago cop and criminal justice teacher Howard Saffold told ABC7 the last time the department's international image had been so tarnished was in 1968 when Chicago police beat up demonstrators protesting at the Democratic National Convention. Ironically, that violence also was caught on camera, and most of the victims were white people.

"Once the victim becomes white and its publicized to this extent, and there's a tape, it's almost like they can tolerate it as long as you don't pick on family members," said Howard Saffold, criminal justice professor.

ABC7 has learned that as many as five additional cops could be disciplined because they did not respond properly to a disturbance at the Jefferson Tap and Grille in December. Six off-duty officers -- already suspended -- allegedly beat up four businessmen in view of surveillance cameras, and one of the off-duty suspects -- a sergeant -- told the five on-duty cops who responded to the melee to go away while the beatings continued.

Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue said the news media has given too much attention to the incidents.

"We need the media to address those officers that are going out there everyday doing what they're supposed to do," said Mark Donahue, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7.

The videotaped incidents may have put superintendent Cline's 38-year police career in jeopardy.

Saffold says it is time for the city to hire an outsider, even a civilian, as superintendent.

"Right now, I think it would be wise for the City of Chicago to bring an outside person in that is not a part of the old boy's club," said Saffold.

"I think its something that's been bantered around with minimal success. Is it time here in Chicago? I don't think so," Donahue said.

In the early 1960s, Mayor Richard J. Daley did appoint a civilian as superintendent, O.W. Wilson, after a misconduct scandal and rampant police brutality. Mayor Richard M. Daley has been out of the country and so far has not commented on the current problems in the police department.

It is believed the mayor is on a mission related to the 2016 Olympics bid. This kind of publicity certainly cannot help that effort.

See the complete attack as it was caught on tape

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