Friction Between Police Union, Superintendent Grows
Chicago Tribune via Yellowbrix
September 15, 2010
CHICAGO – The rancor between Chicago’s top police official and the union that represents rank-and-file officers continued to escalate on the eve of a protest planned for Wednesday outside police headquarters.
In a letter posted on the union’s Web site, Richard L. Aguilar, the union’s financial secretary, called for Superintendent Jody Weis to "take a cue from our Mayor. Resign.’’
On Tuesday, Weis countered by calling the recent public sparring a “soap opera.”
“I’ve still got more work to (do),‘’ Weis said. "And I’m certainly not to going to leave until I get that work done.’’
Leaders for the Fraternal Order of Police called on officers and their families to march at 10 a.m. Wednesday to police headquarters at 35th Street and Michigan Avenue to protest what they called Weis’ lack of leadership. Chief among their complaints is how manpower in Chicago’s 25 police districts has suffered from officers being detailed to other assignments.District resources shouldn’t be depleted at a time when the economy has forced hiring to a trickle, said FOP President Mark Donahue, who took his argument to the news media.
“It all ties in with (officers) being able to do their job proactively,” he told the Tribune. "… These are internal decisions about where to put people.’’
The debate over deployments is the latest dispute in a relationship with the union that long ago soured for Weis, a career FBI agent who was often criticized as an outsider who is out of sync with Chicago’s street officers after his hiring in 2008.
Others have said sweeping personnel changes at the start of his tenure sent the wrong message. But his handling of an officer who beat a suspect handcuffed to a wheelchair rankled officers the most.
Given Mayor Richard Daley’s surprise decision last week not to seek re-election, Weis’ tenure is bound to generate even more scrutiny as the mayoral election heats up. Weis’ contract runs out March 1, leading to speculation about his future with the department.
Daley hired Weis to improve the image of the department in the wake of police scandals. The mayor vouched for him last week after a potential mayoral candidate promised he would fire Weis.
The superintendent has also defended himself to the Tribune and on his department blog, saying he has implemented suggestions from the field, such as newer vehicles and a better work schedule for officers. He also said the union has offered nothing of "substance’’ to improve the department.
Weis also took on a wide range of criticisms that have dogged him, including his popularity amid the ranks and his decision to wear the department uniform. Weis said he decided to don the uniform at special events only after he had conferred with union leaders on the issue.
“Leadership is not about being popular; it is about making difficult decisions and doing the right thing,’’ he said.
Weis defended his handling of Officer William Cozzi, who was convicted of beating the handcuffed patient in an incident that was caught on videotape.
Cozzi was charged under state law for the attack, but Weis is blamed across the department for referring the case to the U.S. attorney’s office for federal prosecution.
Weis again denied he played any role in the federal probe, saying that he forwarded an Internet link of the video to the head of the Chicago FBI office to ask if he had seen it. Federal authorities were already investigating Cozzi, he said.
Union officials said they have gotten mixed messages from Weis on what exactly his role was regarding Cozzi but still hold him accountable. And they also disputed they hadn’t offered substantive improvements, saying Weis often didn’t involve them in decision-making.