If you live in Chicago, you would have had to have your head in the sand to miss the news that Keith Herrera, a former Chicago Police Officer who was charged in the scandal around the now disbanded SOS (Special Operations Unit) was going to be talking to 60 Minutes tonight. I couldn’t help but think about how Katie Couric and 60 Minutes chose to do a piece that shows the Chicago Police Department as having a rogue element without any counterbalance. I’d say this was a disappointment, but that ship sailed long ago, as the incident around Officer Mike Mette’s bizarre imprisonment has garnered very little national and even local media attention, save for John Kass.
The SOS was but one unit in the nation’s second largest Police Department. Nothing was said about any other unit, nor any other department, and certainly there was no sharing of information as to the good work that is done every day throughout the city. According to the interview, Herrera claimed two rather interesting things. One was that breaking procedure and falsifying reports is commonplace practice. The other: “I don’t have my star or my gun, but I’m still a cop.” Sorry Keith, I think you stopped being a cop the day you falsified your first report and took something that wasn’t yours.
There are many times the media, especially the national media, disappoints, and tonight was no exception. When Herrara clarified that he was following the lead of his bosses, not the Sergeants in white shirts, if Couric had any modicum of fairness she would have expanded on the inference and impact of that statement. Herrara was saying that this was not condoned through the ranks of everyone at the CPD, but it was condoned in his unit and obviously anyone in the district that knew what was going on but failed to stop it. This distinction is lost on the public and those who tend to hate cops in general, since the recent scandals involving the Chicago Police Department merely serve as fuel for cop haters.
Couric also took a pass on further questioning Superintendent Jody Weis. When Weis commented that that Officers should be “aggressive,” Couric should have been asking him to define “aggressive” and how that translates of police work on the street, especially in high crime areas. 60 Minutes made a point to say there was a “major shakeup” in that 21 out of 25 District Commands were changed. What wasn’t said was that the majority of these Commanders were not fired, but reassigned to a different district, a “musical chairs” of sorts. So much for any investigative reporting, which this was not. It was an interview that was not balanced. Will any good come of it? Perhaps, as Herrara may speak to any officer who is close to crossing the line and help that person become cogent about the implications of such.
But back to his comments. Yes, this is Chicago, but that does not mean every cop on the street ignores the law and proper police procedure. A Sergeant friend of mine has put away the bad guys without lying on his reports, and as I understand it, falsifying a police report is a serious act and is grounds for punishment. I’ve heard of one that did and that person was stripped of their police powers, pronto. And remember, it is Herrera, a disgraced ex-cop who ignored all of this who is being held accountable, not the thousands of officers who put their lives at risk every day, doing their job and adhering to the law. These are the men and women we usually will never read about: the officers of the Chicago Police Department who serve the public, keep us from harms way, see unfathomable and horrific things that humans do to other people, have opportunities to help civilians in ways that can have profound effects in our own lives, and who do this for us without being on 60 Minutes complaining that they still don’t have a contract.