EDITORIAL: Police officers staging political theater is not what Chicago needs

A sea of blue converging on City Hall is not what Chicago needs right now.

That’s what the Fraternal Order of Police is calling for, though, with its plan to have rank-and-file officers show up, in force, and confront Mayor Emanuel at next week’s City Council meeting.

This is nothing but political theater. 

EDITORIAL

Sure, it will let the FOP blow off steam and make a show of airing grievances about the mayor and city’s ongoing police reform efforts. And the FOP has every right to air its complaints, like everyone else. The City Council is a public body, City Hall is public space, the mayor is a public official and police officers are citizens like the rest of us.

But busing police officers in from three sites around town to put on a show at City Hall strikes us as irresponsible at a time when relations between the public and police are in the pits.

It’s not the smartest way to serve and protect Chicago — or the police.

Not with summer and a likely spike in shootings, which traditionally go hand in hand, just around the corner. Not when the Chicago Police homicide clearance rate is an embarrassing 17 percent. Not when distrust stands like the Great Wall of China between cops and civilians in communities of color.

And not when City Hall, after way too much resistance, finally is engaged in hammering out a much-needed court-monitored consent decree that, one hopes, will get to the heart of our city’s most intractable policing problems, such as how to better deescalate confrontations with people who are mentally disturbed.

We’re not alone in questioning the wisdom of FOP President Kevin Graham’s planned stunt. And, like Supt. Eddie Johnson, we sure don’t think it’s “the best way” for the FOP to forge at least the beginnings of a working relationship with the new heads of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and the Police Board.

To help bring harmony to a proud city that has experienced so much angst, the police would do better to calm the waters, not roil them.

The police can’t do their jobs effectively if communities, especially those where crime most needs to be curbed, don’t trust the cops patrolling the streets. And citizens won’t feel safer without effective policing. The two parties must work together, not engage in endless conflict. Spare us the theatrics at City Hall.

Our concern here is not Emanuel, who has plenty of grief fairly coming to him, but the negative message that this big City Hall cop show is sure to send to every neighborhood. As mayor, Emanuel is fair game, and he hasn’t earned anything close to a passing grade in managing police matters. He botched City Hall’s handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting, most infamously, and — as the Sun-Times reported last week — he’s somehow managed to increase the size of the police force without getting more beat cops out on the streets.

There’s an election coming up next year, and Emanuel will have to answer to all that if he hopes to be reelected. Any candidate looking to take Emanuel down, we should add, had better tell the voters exactly how they’d do better — and find the revenue to cover the inevitably higher bill.  

Most Chicago Police officers love this town. We know that. Most of them grew up here, have chosen to make their lives here, and became cops for that very reason — to do good by a town that’s done good by them.

They’re in it for themselves, but also for the rest of us. They’d really love to tear down that Great Wall of China.

We’re not sure the FOP gets that.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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