Officers stripped of police powers pending probe of video

March 23, 2011

CityRoom

A young man shields his face from cameras (Video)

Two Chicago police officers have been relieved of their police powers and assigned to administrative duties pending an investigation into a video obtained by WBEZ, the department said Wednesday.
 
The video appears to show two uniformed Chicago officers allowing a young man to be taunted by a group of onlookers in the city’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.

In the footage, doors of a Chicago police SUV are open and the young man is in the backseat, shielding his face from view as the onlookers shout insults and flash apparent gang signs to the camera.

At one point, someone tells a camera operator, “Get a close-up.”

“In this incident, Department members reportedly demonstrated unbecoming conduct while an individual was in a Department vehicle,” the police department said Tuesday in a written statement to WBEZ. “The conduct that is alleged does not reflect the behavior and core values of the men and women of the Chicago Police Department nor our commitment to serve the community in a professional manner.”

The circumstances surrounding the video are unclear, but some community members say it shows what they call an old scare tactic of the police department: dropping off youths or alleged gang members in rival gang territory.

“I’ve heard of these stories quite a bit,” said Tio Hardiman, director of the Chicago-based violence-prevention group CeaseFire Illinois. “We’ve had situations where guys have been dropped off and some guys have gotten beaten up severely.”

Hardiman expressed doubts that such treatment would scare a youth away from gang activity. The young man in the video, Hardiman added, “is looking at it now probably from a lens where, ‘Hey, look, I can’t trust the police now. Look what happened to me.’ ”

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward) on Wednesday also voiced concern. “The safety of our communities is threatened daily by the inhumane actions of gang members, and our police force is critical to the security of our children and our families,” he said.

Maldonado called the alleged actions of the officers “totally reprehensible.” If the allegations are proven true, the alderman added, the officers should be “held accountable and severely dealt with.”

Hardiman said the alleged incident could erode trust between the police and community members — and inflame tensions in the street. The young man, Hardiman said, “may become an anti-system type of individual, and then he may have some larceny in his heart against the guys that were taunting him while he was in the back of the car.”

The police department said its Internal Affairs Division is investigating the matter.

A YouTube user who goes by the name King-Dubb posted the footage on that video-sharing site Saturday. The video and King-Dubb’s username then disappeared. WBEZ posted the video Tuesday.

Warning: This raw footage contains strong language.

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