Thursday, August 9, 2007

Sharpton puts city on notice
POLICE BRUTALITY | Establishing a base in Chicago, he plans to pressure mayor, state's attorney BY LISA DONOVAN Staff Reporter/
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."

Cops not 'out of control,' Daley says of 2 killings

LAW ENFORCEMENT | He urges residents to await investigations

August 9, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter
The Chicago Police Department is "not out of control," Mayor Daley said Wednesday, urging family members and community leaders angry about the death of two men at the hands of police in the last week to await the outcome of internal investigations.
"Every day, Chicago Police are called. They get thousands of calls. Yes, these are two instances. They're very serious instances. They're . . . looking at it. But this is not an easy job out there," the mayor said.

Gefery Johnson, 42, died Saturday after police used a Taser and pepper spray to subdue him at his Gresham home after being summoned by family members.

Two days later, police shot and killed 18-year-old Aaron Harrison in the West Side's North Lawndale community after Harrison allegedly pointed a gun at an officer chasing him on foot.

On Wednesday, Daley withheld judgment on whether police officers acted properly. But he did not hesitate when asked about the angry reaction to the Monday night shooting. Residents threw bottles at police during what was described as a near-riot.

"Anybody starts throwing bottles at anyone else -- it's not respectful. I mean -- you may disagree or something like that. But you have to withhold" judgment, he said.

He also didn't hesitate when asked whether the community reaction to both incidents stems from distrust that the newly revamped Office of Professional Standards will conduct its investigations fairly.

"No. Historically, people don't like police. . . . They like you when they come. But they don't like the results," Daley said.

Meanwhile, some West Side church ministers and Harrison's relatives are expected to call on the U.S. Justice Department today to conduct a separate investigation on this week's shooting.

"There are a lot people who know about the shooting, but they don't feel secure talking to the police and they don't trust them," said the Rev. Robin Hood, pastor of Redeemed Outreach Ministries Church.