Breaking the "Code of Silence"
October 6, 2016 11:33 AM   Subscribe

In the Chicago Police Deparment, if the bosses say it didn't happen, it didn't happen. (Jamie Kalven, for The Intercept_.)

"During more than a decade of immersion in public housing, I was never in a position to observe police extort payoffs from drug dealers in exchange for protection. Yet I frequently witnessed or heard about police conduct that made manifest just how much space there was for abuse: A place where police officers can steal grocery money from the poorest of the poor and indulge in casual cruelty without fear of consequences is a place where anything is possible.


Brown provided enough concrete information that Echeverria could verify some of what he said with arrest reports and other police documents. He described a criminal enterprise in which Watts and several members of his team were systematically extorting money from drug dealers in public housing. The payoffs were known on the street as the “Watts tax.” If a dealer paid the tax, his operation was protected from police interference. Watts, according to Brown, was protecting dealers allied with him, while targeting the competition and redirecting seized drugs to his own dope lines.


They decided to go to the FBI. Once they provided their information, they assumed that would be the end of their involvement. Contacting the FBI, however, would prove to be less an end than a beginning. It would alter the trajectory of their lives and set in motion a sequence of events now moving inexorably toward a full public reckoning in Chicago with the nature and consequences of the code of silence within the CPD."
posted by Bahro (14 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Nothing surprises me about police gangs.

This shit is vile.
posted by entropone at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

Not to make everything political, but everything IS political. Can you imagine the Trump Justice Dept or FBI going after this in Chicago, let alone Baltimore, Ferguson, etc? Not a chance.
posted by jetsetsc at 12:27 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Oh, Chicago PD, is there nothing you can't won't do?
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:33 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

[One deleted; let's really not turn this thread into some kind of proxy argument about national politics. We have an election thread for that.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]

Anyone recall the DEA agent Carl Force and Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges convicted of stealing bitcoins during the investigation of Ross Ulbricht for running SilkRoad?

Appears theft is rampant among federal cops too, especially the DEA. These two cops just did not understand that bitcoin transactions cannot be kept anonymous, so doing their usual business got them caught.

Also, asset forfeiture laws seem less about "fighting drugs" than about organization level profiteering. And police now steal more than burglars.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:37 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

The CPD is their own worst enemy.

Immediately after the latest bad officer involved shooting, where a suspect was shot in the back while trying to climb a fence, unnamed sources in the police force told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter that there was a coordinated multi-gang plot to assassinate police officers that was discovered by either wiretaps or a mole.

What became of that?


Because it's purpose was to knock the shooting off the front page. Which it did.

Has the Sun-Times followed up on the story where they clearly got played for fools?


And all this happened while there was an ongoing federal investigation into just this kind of bullshit.

The Chicago Police Department's combination of incompetence, misconduct and outright evil has cost the people of Chicago well over half a billion dollars of court settlements (and counting) in the past 10 years.
posted by srboisvert at 2:16 PM on October 6, 2016 [8 favorites]

When Reagan slashed welfare payments, that cut off a major part of the money supply which allowed segregated poor communities of color to function economically at all, and if something hadn't arisen to take the place of those payments, God knows what would have happened -- vastly increased rates of economic crime against non-minorities at the very least (and minorities too, of course, but no one at the Federal level cared about that), and probably riots.

But something did arise: drugs. And I think there was a conscious decision at some level of the Reagan Administration and in many cities to allow drugs to flourish in minority communities, within limits.

And those limits were set by the police.

But the aim of law enforcement wasn't to stamp out drugs, it was to streamline the drug trade and confine most of the violence it generated to the minority community, yet at the same time to allow non-minorities to buy the drugs without undue difficulty in order to ensure the cash flow which was the whole point.

People like Watt were high level line managers in the regulatory apparatus, and I think it's very likely that he knew that. And from the description in the article of him as a person, I'd bet he did a better job than most.
posted by jamjam at 2:43 PM on October 6, 2016 [14 favorites]

Why is our society still this f-ed up when we've been working at it for so long? Those entrenched interests, greed and tribalism really are good at holding back progress, I guess.

My wish list, for sometime in the next 25 years:

1. Body cameras, with penalties for turning them off.

2. Civilian review boards for officer-involved shootings.

3. Special Prosecutors and Inspectors General that are outside of the DA's office, tasked with performing institutional reviews of the PD for systemic bias, corruption and investigations of officer misconduct.

4. Eliminate elected judge-ships.

5. Eliminate civil forfeiture.

6. Eliminate for-profit prisons.

7. Eliminate "suspended with pay" for misconduct.

8. Eliminate "the police department has yet to release the official videos."

9. Eliminate "resisting arrest" and "obstruction" as criminal charges unless backed up with video evidence.

10. Eliminate police use of kettling, free speech "zones", armored personnel carriers, rubber bullets, rough rides, restraint chairs, choke holds, etc., etc..

11. Eliminate shooting the mentally ill when their family calls the police for assistance.

There's a start.
posted by darkstar at 5:02 PM on October 6, 2016 [20 favorites]

This sounds depressingly familiar.
posted by TedW at 5:37 PM on October 6, 2016

Federalize them. It's not my preferred solution, but given the political realities, it's the only option I can think of that has a chance.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 6:13 PM on October 6, 2016

That was a hard read. It doesn't surprise me, but then when you're used to Jon Burge and a secret interrogation bunker... Poor Spaulding and Echeverria.

I felt like there was a second thread in the story though, one that was barely touched on and then let drop -- as jamjam mentions above, the idea that the Reagan-era welfare reforms created the perfect growth medium for the criminal economy that Watts participated in, through increasing the poverty of and reducing opportunities for the populations affected. I guess it wasn't the main point of the story, but although I've previously taken it as given that Reagan fucked the poor (among others), and increased drug abuse was a result especially in poor communities, I'd never thought about it in terms of creating a shadow economy because of the need for work. I guess I just thought that gangs sucked people in through having nothing better to do, or needing protection from other gangs, or wanting to be involved in something badass, or even just wanting to belong to something. Sounds pretty dumb and naive if I write it out like that, and I guess it makes me obviously white middle class. I guess I thought at some level, yeah, people dealt to make cash, but just putting it in plain terms made it clearer (A -> B -> C). And I've read that Venkatesh book, too.
posted by sldownard at 11:31 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's like a book! There's four parts, and each of them is quite long. I've only read part one, but it's striking how pervasive the corruption is, and how quickly whistleblowers are disciplined.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:47 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Journalist Jamie Kalven and Echeverria's (co-whistleblower) partner Shannon Spaulding were interviewed on today's Democracy Now! (at about 11:00, alt link, .torrent, transcript.)
posted by XMLicious at 8:11 AM on October 21, 2016

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