Sharpton puts city on notice
POLICE BRUTALITY | Establishing a base in Chicago, he plans to pressure mayor, state's attorney BY LISA DONOVAN Staff Reporteremail@example.com
The Rev. Al Sharpton is coming to town.
The brash New York minister's civil rights organization is opening a Chicago chapter this week, in part to pressure Mayor Daley and the Cook County state's attorney's office to deal more swiftly with police officers accused of brutality. Controversy often follows the Rev. Al Sharpton, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination three years ago.
"There's been a consistent pattern of police misconduct, and a lot of people feel Daley has been getting a pass," Sharpton said.
He said that a zero-tolerance policy toward police misconduct must emanate from the city's highest elected office.
Sharpton, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, said his National Action Network has pushed for police to be held to the same standards as anyone accused of violent crime.
"As one that has worked police brutality cases successfully from Abner Louima on, I've gotten police officers . . . convicted," Sharpton said, referring to the high-profile New York police beating of a Haitian immigrant in 1997.
"You hear about problems in Chicago, but you don't hear what was done about those cases."
A spokesman for Cook County's top prosecutor says the office doesn't shy away from charging police officers.
"In the 11 years that Dick Devine has been state's attorney we have charged at least one police officer a month. That's more than 130 police officers who have been charged," said John Gorman, a Devine spokesman. "This office has an unblemished record of prosecuting any police officer where there is sufficient evidence to charge."
Sharpton has had his own controversies, dating back to the 1987 Tawana Brawley case, in which the minister led protests on rape allegations. The 15-year-old eventually admitted she made up the story that six white officers raped her.
Jackson: We'll work together
The announcement that Sharpton will be opening up shop in Chicago comes as the mayor prepares to name a new police superintendent.
An attempt to reach a spokesman for the mayor was unsuccessful.
Sharpton is already a regular voice in Chicago with his syndicated radio show broadcast on WVON-AM (1690).
Now Sharpton, these days thinner in body and pompadour, will become a regular face here -- moving in on territory where the Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow PUSH/Coalition are firmly rooted.
Heading Sharpton's Chicago effort is a civil rights force in her own right. A South Sider, chapter president Jeri Wright, 41, is the daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor to presidential hopeful and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.
Jackson said he'll work with Sharpton, as he has in the past. Earlier this year, they teamed up to push CBS to fire Don Imus after the radio host made controversial comments about the Rutgers women's basketball team. But Jackson sees Sharpton's Chicago mission as somewhat duplicative of his and other local civil rights groups.
"We've been focusing on the Jon Burge torture cases," through radio and cable access programming, Jackson said. "We confronted . . . music distributors on language degrading women -- those are cultural issues.
"On the other hand, the disparity in educational funding, the disparity in health care, the disparity in sentencing, the gun laws that deny people equal protection under the law -- these are the great civil rights issues of our time."