Today all my Chicago Facebook friends will be arguing about yesterday's task force finding that there's a big problem with racism and abuse in the Chicago Police Department.
What's got everyone so excited?
Chicago journalist John Conroy first reported on police torture here in 1990, documenting that Area 2 detective Jon Burge and his boys suffocated suspects by putting typewriter covers on their heads, and made a device that shot electrical charges into suspects' balls.
A friend's dad was a Chicago police detective during that era. He said cops routinely beat guys with phone books during questioning. Why phone books? They don't leave a mark. Why beat 'em? "Cuz they're gonna say we beat 'em whether we beat 'em or not, so we might as well beat 'em."
Another cop I knew said he was surprised as a rookie to see the cops beat the shit out of a suspect. "Why did you beat 'im up?" he asked his colleague. "He ran." If a suspect runs, you beat the shit out of 'im. Everybody knows that—including the stupid jamoke who ran.
Everybody also knows that being a cop in Chicago is an awful, scary job that involves seeing horrible things that men, women and children do to men, women and children—things that, like war scenes—can't be unseen.
Everybody knows that the job attracts people without a lot of other options.
Everybody knows that patrolling poor, desperate, dysfunctional and gang-infested neighborhoods makes a lot of people jaded. Everybody's heard a cop call people animals.
We aren't sure why police racism is worse in Chicago, but we have a good hunch that it's because this has long been one of the most segregated cities in the nation.
And everybody knows that a lot of cops are terrific nevertheless—and that a terrific cop is a man or woman who ought to be marveled at and feted by the whole society, but won't be.
If we know all this—and if we have known it our whole lives—why do we all argue about it so much? Because it's upsetting, to cops and their friends and their families and all lovers of law and order, to learn and relearn how fucked-up the police force is. It's upsetting to victims of police abuse and their friends and families and all believers in social justice that some people seem to worry exclusively about defending the police perpetrators. And it's upsetting to contemplate all the new sheriffs we've had in this town, and all the new reforms they've promised over all these years—and to realize things aren't any better than they ever were.
We argue about this old problem for the same reason we argue about every old problem—in politics, in families, in marriage: We're upset, and we don't know what to do.
So we argue.
Even though we know: