A new report suggests Chicago police officers are hiding or intentionally destroying dashcam mics so the audio isn’t available. DNAinfo Chicago snagged records showing 80% of cops are doing something to make sure the dashcams aren’t working properly. It got so bad, police supervisors finally started warning officers they’d face discipline if their cameras weren’t working.
Between Sept. 1, 2014, and July 16, 2015, maintenance technicians assigned to troubleshoot and repair dashcam systems reported 90 incidents where no microphones were found in squad cars, according to police logs.
Another 13 inspections during that period turned up only one microphone in squad cars that were supposed to be equipped with two audio recording devices, according to the logs.
On 30 occasions, technicians who downloaded dashcam videos found evidence that audio recording systems either had not been activated or were “intentionally defeated” by police personnel, the records show…
In December, interim Police Supt. John Escalante warned the rank and file that they would be disciplined for failing to follow proper dashcam protocol. Weeks later, he followed through by hitting some officers and supervisors with formal reprimands and up-to-three-day suspensions.
“To boil this down, the Police Department will not tolerate officers maliciously destructing equipment,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
The police union is disputing how brass is handling this, saying there’s no way of figuring out what’s intentional and what’s not. The union has a point, but when it’s 80% of squad cars having an issue, the question becomes whether it’s training or whether it’s intentional destruction. In this situation, the Police Superintendent’s Office is right to discipline the cops who destroy or hide the mics to make sure possibly corrupt actions aren’t noticed. The question is why did it take so long for the Superintendent’s Office (and Mayor Rahm Emanuel) to start realizing this was a problem? It’s possible they were simply blind to what was going on inside police vehicles, but that appears unlikely. Ed wrote on January 7th how Emanuel knew what was on video of the 2014 shooting death of Laquan McDonald and was able to get McDonald’s family to not release dashcam video (which was silent, by the way, because the cops involved damaged it) until after his re-election. This shows the lack of responsibility on Emanuel’s part and perpetuates the belief he’s only in it for his own power, and not because he wants to be a servant of the people. It gives the appearance that Emanuel doesn’t support actual reform (even if he fired Garry McCarthy as superintendent) but only wants to make changes which are more of a band-aid than an actual solution. The same goes for the Chicago Police Department as a whole. If they don’t have supervisors who are willing to discipline officers for destroying microphones, then they’re purposefully letting the department’s corruption continue. The Cook County State’s Attorney also deserves criticism for deciding to prosecute a woman in 2011 who recorded two Internal Affairs officers because she believed they were trying to get her to DROP a case against a fellow cop. A jury thankfully found the charges laughable and acquitted her. What happens when the supposed watchdogs of the police department, are the ones who are acting as though they’re above the law? The same question could be asked of the federal government which appears to be trying to cover up Hillary Clinton’s former deeds as Secretary of State under the idea of “Top Secret.”
There’s another group which deserves responsibility: the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. The union may claim to be protecting its members from unfair abuses, but how far is too far? Is the union simply willing to do a blanket coverage of all members without bothering to look at the circumstances? Are union leaders turning a blind to the corruption within their own ranks, because the city is paying off the settlements and not the union itself? Why aren’t more people willing to actually criticize the union for its inaction in protecting police? Is it because they don’t want to appear against rank-and-file police officers who are just doing their job? It could be critics don’t want to be lumped in with the morons who go out there yelling “[Screw] the police!” or the Occupy Wall Street folks who decided to paint brown streaks on police cars with their bodies. There are plenty of great cops out there, but there are also plenty of bad ones. The unions have to take responsibility for their own members when they behave badly, just like elected officials need to as well. The union bosses have to look in the mirror and decide when it’s time to cut a member loose because they’re corrupt. The problems in Chicago are more than just elected officials and bad police leadership, but also bad union leadership. Everyone needs to be held accountable for what’s going on, and if City Hall and the union bosses complain about it, so what? The problems in Chicago start at the top, and filter down to the streets. It’s going to take decades, if not close to a century, to get this solved. This means convincing people they don’t need to be part of a union to get a job. It means convincing people they need to start holding unions accountable for bad actors. It’s just too bad people in Chicago are so convinced unions are “good,” instead of looking at how corrupt they can be.