Justice Scalia?

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

So remember the video of the off-duty Chicago SWAT officer beating the mother-grabbin' vocabulary out of a female bartender a third his size?

A second video surfaced last week, this time involving six other off-duty Chicago cops slamming some heads in a bar brawl.

One alleged victim of the Jefferson Tap beating required reconstructive surgery on his face and another suffered four broken ribs, a lawyer for the men has said. During the incident, patrons at the downtown bar called 911. When patrol officers responded, the off-duty officers involved allegedly spoke to them and the patrol officers left without intervening, sources have said.

That was in December. Police officials saw the video of the fight five days after it happened. Yet the brawling cops kept their jobs, positions, and patrols until late last week, when the bartender beatdown video got the media sniffing, leading to the discovery of the video of the December brawl. Four months later, only after another one of his men was caught on tape beating a civilian, Chicago Police Superintendent Philip Cline decided to suspend the six officers involved in the December brawl, noting that he probably "mishandled" their discipline.

"Mishandled" is one way of putting it. "Covered up" is probably more accurate.

This week was also the hearing for Officer Anthony Abbate, the aforementioned officer who beat down the bartender. As if the department hadn't shamed itself enough already…

The hearing was held at a branch courtroom at the Grand Central Area police headquarters, and several on-duty officers used their squad cars to block media access to the facility, Cline said. Officers also issued parking tickets to media vehicles parked in the headquarters lot.

Cline said he had already decided to demote the watch commander—a captain—who he said told the officers to harass reporters and camera crews covering the Abbate hearing.

Demoted? Shouldn't the watch commander be fired? Come to think of it, it's probably time for Sup. Cline to look for other work, too. New evidence also emerged this week in yet another case, this time casting doubt on police accounts of a 2005 fatal police shooting of an unarmed immigrant in the city. Incredibly, Sup. Cline was at the scene of that shooting. A forensics expert is now alleging a police cover-up there, too.

I'll include the obligatory "only a small percentage of cops are bad" disclaimer here. But when the entire department—right up to the chief of police—continues to cover up for the bad seeds, you really can't blame the public for starting to believe that they're all crooked.

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