WBEZ | Humboldt Park http://www.wbez.org/tags/humboldt-park Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago speed cameras catch 234K leadfoots in opening weeks http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893 <p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5f27a295-a526-eab2-207c-4398f3e0b89b">New data show Chicago&rsquo;s nascent speed camera system is already lightening the city&rsquo;s lead feet, but the numbers are also prompting critics to wonder whether City Hall is in for a massive revenue windfall at taxpayers&rsquo; expense.</p><p dir="ltr">Cameras in nine so-called &ldquo;safety zones&rdquo; near four Chicago parks logged 233,886 speeding violations between Aug. 26 and Oct. 9, according to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request.</p><p>The cameras are not yet churning out actual tickets, but had they been, those nine alone would have generated nearly $13.9 million worth of citations in just 45 days, according to WBEZ&rsquo;s analysis. For now, the cameras are generating only warnings to give drivers time to learn where the cameras are - and tap the brakes - before getting walloped with fines.</p><blockquote><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-205k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893#map"><strong>MAP: Where are the new speed cameras?</strong></a></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">And Chicagoans already seem to be riding the steep learning curve city transportation officials had hoped for: Speeding violations have dropped an average of 50 percent at the four sites since Aug. 26, data show.</p><p dir="ltr">Those numbers surprised even Scott Kubly, the Chicago Department of Transportation official who&rsquo;s in charge of the fledgling speed camera program.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The fact that there&rsquo;s that many warnings that have gone out is an indication of how big a speeding problem that we actually have in Chicago,&rdquo; Kubly told WBEZ Thursday.</p><p dir="ltr">Some drivers could begin finding speed camera tickets in their mailboxes after Oct. 16, when the 30-day grace period for the Gompers Park cameras on the North Side runs out. Tickets for the other three speed camera sites - at Marquette, Mckinley Garfield Parks - hit the mail Oct. 21. Drivers photographed going between six and 10 mph over the posted limit will get a $35 fine. Get caught cruising any faster than that, and the fine jumps to $100.</p><p dir="ltr">In order to &quot;ease the transition,&quot; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&#39;s administration said in a Friday press release that the city would only issue tickets to drivers caught going faster than 10 mph over the speed limit. It&#39;s unclear how long that will last.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration estimates the city will make between $40 million and $60 million from speed camera tickets next year, when Chicago government is facing a nearly $339 million budget shortfall. But the high number of speed violations so far - and the big potential for revenue - has reignited criticisms that the program is more about making money than protecting kids.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I can not deny that, if those cameras are there, people are gonna slow down,&rdquo; said 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston, who voted against allowing the speed cameras. &ldquo;But call it what it is. Don&rsquo;t try to sell us on the safety of children and parks and schools.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">If speed camera violations continue at their current rate, the city&rsquo;s take could reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars a year. And dozens more cameras are on the way: The city is aiming to have a total of 105 installed at 50 locations by early 2014, Kubly said.</p><p dir="ltr">Alderman John Arena, 45th Ward, who voted against the original speed camera plan, suggests the administration is low-balling its revenue projections, while overestimating the deterrent effect on drivers.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think we&rsquo;re still gonna get caught in the net,&rdquo; Arena said. &ldquo;I think $100 million is easy for the system.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But Emanuel&rsquo;s administration is sticking to its earlier projections as it bets on a dramatic dropoff in speeding - between 75 and 90 percent - as drivers begin finding tickets in their mailboxes.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Our number one goal is to slow traffic down, so if we never collect a dime on this, it&rsquo;s successful,&rdquo; Kubly said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s absolutely not a cash grab. It&rsquo;s all about making our roads safer.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Each new camera the city installs will have a month-long grace period before it starts churning out tickets, and afterward, drivers get one freebie written warning after the cameras are online. The city also plans to put up 20 so-called &ldquo;speed indicator signs&rdquo; that tell drivers in real time how fast they&#39;re going, which also slows down traffic, Kubly said.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We wanna make sure that, no matter where you are in the city, if you&rsquo;re near a school or a park, that you feel like there could be a camera there,&rdquo; Kubly said. &ldquo;And the idea is to create a culture in which abiding by the speed limit is the understood way to drive and the norm.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Kubly said the program is already having &ldquo;amazing&rdquo; success: Speed cameras photographed 7,397 violations on Sept. 10, the first day all nine cameras were up and running. By Oct. 3, violations had already fallen to 3,833.</p><p dir="ltr">Since then, the city has installed more cameras at Douglas, Legion, Washington, Humboldt and Major Taylor parks, as well as Prosser Vocational High School, according to a CDOT spokesman.</p><p dir="ltr">Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Note: Calculations and figures in this story have been corrected and updated to reflect new data and information provided by the City of Chicago.</em></p><p><strong><a name="map"></a>Map of locations of Chicago&#39;s new speed cameras&nbsp; </strong><em>(Updated Oct. 10, 2013)</em><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/legend.PNG" style="float: left;" title="" /></p><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div> <style type="text/css"> #map-canvas { width:620px; height:900px; } .layer-wizard-search-label { font-family: sans-serif };</style> <script type="text/javascript" src="http://maps.google.com/maps/api/js?sensor=false"> </script><script type="text/javascript"> var map; var layer_0; function initialize() { map = new google.maps.Map(document.getElementById('map-canvas'), { center: new google.maps.LatLng(41.83188268689178, -87.721698912207), zoom: 11 }); var style = [ { featureType: 'all', elementType: 'all', stylers: [ { saturation: -99 } ] } ]; var styledMapType = new google.maps.StyledMapType(style, { map: map, name: 'Styled Map' }); map.mapTypes.set('map-style', styledMapType); map.setMapTypeId('map-style'); layer_0 = new google.maps.FusionTablesLayer({ query: { select: "col1", from: "1jB8zYONZanMZHu5gGMIb9vJKtm-LRSrG7lSyXlY" }, map: map, styleId: 2, templateId: 2 }); } google.maps.event.addDomListener(window, 'load', initialize); </script><div id="map-canvas">&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 10 Oct 2013 14:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-speed-cameras-catch-234k-leadfoots-opening-weeks-108893 What I See: Katie Prout http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/what-i-see-katie-prout-108221 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/katie thumbnail.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Katie Prout is a writer, runner and storyteller living in Humboldt Park. Here, she documents one of her late afternoon runs on Chicago&#39;s West Side.</p><p>&quot;In every town and every city I&#39;ve ever lived in, I&#39;ve ran,&quot; she says. &quot;I think it&#39;s a wonderful way to get to know the area and the people and it takes me down a lot of unexpected side streets and roads. It shows me a lot of beautiful and, sometimes, sad things that I wouldn&#39;t have necessarily seen otherwise.&quot;</p><p>You can read Katie&#39;s personal blog, including a post called <a href="http://inmyspiralringnotebook.blogspot.com/2013/04/why-i-run.html" target="_blank">Why I Run,</a>&nbsp;<a href="http://inmyspiralringnotebook.blogspot.com/" target="_blank">right here</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/KycOUPigWDU?rel=0" width="640"></iframe></p><p><strong>More from the What I See project</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-i-see-dmitry-samarov-107924" target="_blank">Painting, sketching and coffee-roasting with Dmitry Samarov</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/lifestyle/what-i-see-trainers-day-shedd-aquarium-107766" target="_blank">A trainer&#39;s day at the Shedd Aquarium with&nbsp;Jessica Whiton</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/what-i-see-bike-bee-107686" target="_blank">Bike-a-Bee with Jana Kinsman</a></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/what-i-see-early-morning-edition-107362" target="_blank">Early Morning Edition with Lauren Chooljian</a></p><p><em>Show us what your Chicago looks like! Email web producer Logan Jaffe ljaffe@wbez.org or tweet @loganjaffe to find out more about how to make a What I See slideshow for WBEZ.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 09:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/what-i-see-katie-prout-108221 Police Board fires cops for conduct captured on gang video http://www.wbez.org/news/police-board-fires-cops-conduct-captured-gang-video-107131 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cop Video Capture.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Police Board has fired two officers for conduct captured on a 2011 gang video (above) discovered by WBEZ.</p><p>The board found patrol officers Susana La&nbsp;Casa, 49, and Luis Contreras, 44, guilty of numerous administrative charges and decided the fitting punishment was dismissal, according to James P. Lynch, the attorney who represented the police department in the case.</p><p>The guilty charges, Lynch said, included unlawfully restraining a youth, transporting him without a valid police purpose to the turf of a gang that would threaten him, and making a false statement about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras arrived March&nbsp;19, 2011, on a Logan Square block to assist two officers who had handcuffed a gang member named Miguel &ldquo;Mikey&rdquo; Castillo. The youth ended up in the backseat of the SUV that La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras were driving. They drove him to a block of nearby Humboldt Park that a rival gang claimed as its territory.</p><p>A 90-second amateur video shot there shows La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras outside the SUV, a Chevrolet Tahoe with standard police markings. Three of the doors are open as onlookers converge, peer in on Castillo, taunt him and flash their gang&rsquo;s hand signal. As Castillo tries to cover his face, La&nbsp;Casa tells him, &ldquo;Put your fucking hand down.&rdquo;</p><p>The video appeared briefly on YouTube, where WBEZ spotted it. The department quickly stripped La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras of their police powers and began an investigation. Interim police Supt. Terry Hillard called the incident &ldquo;not professional&rdquo; and said &ldquo;scared straight&rdquo; tactics were always inappropriate.</p><p>Supt. Garry McCarthy, Hillard&rsquo;s successor,&nbsp;recommended last September that the board dismiss the officers. At the board&rsquo;s evidentiary hearing, which lasted two days in February, La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras insisted they were just trying to give the young man a ride home and he never faced danger.</p><p>La&nbsp;Casa declined to comment about the dismissal.&nbsp;Contreras and attorney William N. Fahy, who represented the officers,&nbsp;did not return calls.</p><p>Neighborhood reactions varied. Eric Hudson, a homeowner who worked with La&nbsp;Casa and Contreras against Logan Square gang activity, said the dismissal stemmed from a police department culture &ldquo;weighted to Irish male cops.&rdquo;</p><p>Hudson called La&nbsp;Casa, an Illinois-licensed clinical counselor, a hard worker who did not deserve to be branded as abusive. &ldquo;This woman is a social worker, not Jon Burge,&rdquo; Hudson said, referring to the notorious Chicago detective imprisoned in connection to police torture cases.</p><p>But Rev. Kenny Ruiz, the former head of a gang-intervention program at the McCormick Tribune YMCA, hopes the dismissal sends a message to other officers. &ldquo;Do what the side of the police car says: &lsquo;Serve and Protect.&rsquo; That means everyone,&rdquo; Ruiz said. &ldquo;They can be the conduit for something positive for the young people and the challenges that they face.&rdquo;</p><p>The board, a nine-member panel appointed by the mayor, does not usually dismiss officers recommended for that punishment. During this year&rsquo;s first three months, the board fired just three of 13 officers that either the police department or the Independent Police Review Authority had recommended for discharge. In eight of those cases, the board ruled that the fitting punishment was a suspension or reprimand. In another case, the respondent resigned. In another, the department withdrew the charges.</p><p>Under Illinois law, officers can appeal their dismissals to Cook County Circuit Court.</p><p>Castillo, who did not suffer physical harm, received $33,000 from the city as part of a settlement in a civil suit over the incident, according to an attorney representing him. The suit, filed in federal court, alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.</p><p>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office reviewed the incident but declined to bring a criminal case.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 11 May 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/police-board-fires-cops-conduct-captured-gang-video-107131 There in Chicago (#22) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/there-chicago-22-106623 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-25--2013.JPG" title="North Avenue at Pulaski Road--view west" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/04-24--1954_1.jpg" title="1954--the same location (CTA photo)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">How well did you find your way around 1954 Chicago?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The most notable clue to the site is the former Pioneer Bank building, which has anchored the northwest corner of this intersection since the 1920s. Another clue is the trolley bus--it&#39;s operating on Pulaski, and the overhead wires show that the other street also has trolley buses. There were very few locations on the West Side where two trolley bus lines crossed.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Also seen in the older picture is one of the Morrie Mages chain of sporting goods stores. And on the far right, an Andes Candies store is partially visible.</div></div><p>&nbsp; &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 19 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-04/there-chicago-22-106623 Puerto Ricans to alderman: ‘Hands off our parade’ http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-ricans-alderman-%E2%80%98hands-our-parade%E2%80%99-106504 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/puerto rican parade 2_1301404_cm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Chicago alderman&rsquo;s plan to combine long-competing Puerto Rican Day parades is inflaming old passions in Humboldt Park, a Northwest Side neighborhood in which thousands of residents have ties to the Caribbean island.<br /><br />&ldquo;The plan to cancel our parade was done behind closed doors by a few individuals with personal interest,&rdquo; said Julio Cruz, a former board member of the Puerto Rican Parade Committee of Chicago, which has held an annual procession downtown since 1965.<br /><br />&ldquo; &lsquo;Merging&rsquo; is the wrong term,&rdquo; Cruz said. &ldquo;Our parade was simply cancelled.&rdquo;<br /><br />Cruz joined two former committee presidents among some three-dozen supporters of the downtown parade at an angry news conference in the neighborhood Thursday afternoon. They slammed an agreement, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/long-dueling-puerto-rican-parades-merge-106435">announced Tuesday by Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th)</a>, to end that event and channel some of its resources into a lower-budget parade held since 1978 on West Division Street, a Humboldt Park thoroughfare.<br /><br />Cruz disputed Maldonado&rsquo;s claim that the downtown attendance had dwindled over the years. &ldquo;The purpose of our parade downtown is to showcase our culture, our people, our achievement &mdash; our failures maybe &mdash; to the rest of the city, not just to our <em>barrio </em>here,&rdquo; Cruz said.<br /><br />The conflict runs deeper than parade-route preferences. Several backers of the downtown event, including former Congressional candidate Héctor Concepción, said they wanted nothing to do with the Humboldt Park parade because its main sponsor, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, promotes the island&rsquo;s independence from the United States.<br /><br />Concepción, a Republican who challenged U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Chicago) last year, called cultural center Executive Director José López a&nbsp;&ldquo;communist&rdquo; with a hidden agenda. Concepción, who has pushed for Puerto Rican statehood, said the parade conflict has &ldquo;everything to do with the island&rsquo;s status.&rdquo;<br /><br />Supporters of the downtown event, held in Grant Park, are also upset about control of the committee. In November, some of them filed a Cook County Circuit Court suit against the committee and its leaders after they extended the term of committee President Angel Medina to four years from two.<br /><br />Biennial community elections for the president&rsquo;s post have long sparked acrimony in Humboldt Park. The job is unpaid but prestigious. The president traditionally oversees the downtown parade, a nearly-week-long Humboldt Park carnival that leads up to it, a community center called Casa Puertorriqueña, and programs such as children&rsquo;s karate and senior bingo. The winner also gets to hobnob with big-name politicians and represent the community on trips to New York, Florida and Puerto Rico.<br /><br />Candidates typically spend thousands of dollars on radio advertising and accuse one another of everything from misuse of committee funds to gang affiliations.<br /><br />Some neighborhood groups, including the cultural center and the Division Street Business Development Association, have pressed for an end to those elections. They have argued unsuccessfully for the president to be appointed by Humboldt Park nonprofit organizations.<br /><br />On Tuesday, Maldonado and López predicted a combined parade in Humboldt Park would bring more people to the neighborhood and help its merchants.<br /><br />Medina said holding the downtown parade cost roughly $45,000 a year. His committee and the cultural center have joined forces to contract with Chicago-based Special Events Management to run the Humboldt Park parade, planned for June 15 this year. The committee will retain control of the carnival, set for&nbsp;June 12-16.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 04 Apr 2013 16:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-ricans-alderman-%E2%80%98hands-our-parade%E2%80%99-106504 Puerto Rican parades to merge http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/long-dueling-puerto-rican-parades-merge-106435 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ParadeByCharlie.jpg" title="Young people waive Puerto Rican flags at the 2010 parade in Humboldt Park. (WBEZ/Charlie Billups)" /></div><p>A decades-old duel between Puerto Rican parades in Chicago is over. The group behind a procession through Grant Park every June has agreed to pull the plug on that 48-year-old tradition and channel resources into a lower-budget parade the same day in Humboldt Park, a Northwest Side neighborhood that has been the heart of the city&rsquo;s Puerto Rican community since the 1960s.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re making history,&rdquo; Angel Medina, president of the Puerto Rican Parade Committee of Chicago, said in Spanish at a Tuesday news conference announcing the merger. &ldquo;Two organizations, for more than 30 years [divided],&nbsp;finally are united and we do it for the good of the community.&rdquo;</p><p>Medina, whose committee sponsored the downtown parade, said holding that event cost roughly $45,000 a year. Medina said that was too much and pointed to dwindling attendance over the years. Starting this year, the&nbsp;committee will co-sponsor the neighborhood&nbsp;parade instead. The committee, meanwhile, will retain sole control of a Humboldt Park&nbsp;carnival that has taken place the same week as the parades.</p><p>The Puerto Rican Cultural Center initiated the Humboldt Park parade 35 years ago as a grassroots alternative to the downtown procession. While it has lacked floats as elaborate as those in the downtown parade, the&nbsp;neighborhood event has stood out for its promotion of Puerto Rican national identity and the island&rsquo;s independence from the United States.&nbsp;</p><p>Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) helped broker the merger. &ldquo;I think it is the right juncture to join both parades so that we can have a large Puerto Rican parade on that very important day for our community,&rdquo; he said at the news conference.</p><p>José López, the cultural center&rsquo;s executive director, predicted the merger would boost numbers at the Humboldt Park parade, held along West Division Street from North Western Avenue to Sacramento Boulevard. &ldquo;For our merchants, these are very difficult times,&rdquo; López said. &ldquo;We believe this will be a shot in the arm in terms of economic development.&rdquo;</p><p>The groups, both recognized by the federal government as nonprofit organizations, have contracted with Chicago-based Special Events Management to run the parade, planned for June 15 this year.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 02 Apr 2013 14:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/long-dueling-puerto-rican-parades-merge-106435 Fate of cops on gang video now up to Police Board http://www.wbez.org/news/fate-cops-gang-video-now-police-board-105520 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/neighborphotoCROP.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 234px; width: 350px;" title="During the 2011 incident, three doors of their SUV were open as onlookers peered in from both sides. (Special to WBEZ)" /></p><p>The fate of two Chicago cops recommended for dismissal because of their conduct in a gang video is now up to the city&rsquo;s Police Board, which will review a trial-like hearing about the case that ended Wednesday afternoon.</p><p>In closing arguments, an attorney for Chicago police Supt. Garry McCarthy said officers Susana La Casa, 49, and Luis Contreras, 44, illegally held and transported a young man, Miguel &ldquo;Mikey&rdquo; Castillo, and violated six police department rules.</p><p>The attorney, James P. Lynch, disputed testimony by La Casa and Contreras that they had simply tried to give Castillo a ride home in 2011, when a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cops-gang-video-%E2%80%98we-were-giving-youth-ride-home%E2%80%99-105382">90-second video</a> captured the officers with the youth in the backseat of their marked SUV on the city&rsquo;s Northwest Side. The video shows onlookers converging on the vehicle and flashing signs of the gang that claims the area.</p><p>&ldquo;These officers could not testify that they offered to serve as an escort or protection for him,&rdquo; Lynch said. &ldquo;Nor do we see any attempts by these officers to offer assistance or take him up to any home on that block. What you see are both of these officers opening the doors and allowing known Latin King gang members to approach with camera cell phones in the air and videotape their taunts.&rdquo;</p><p>Lynch pointed to a moment in the video when La Casa tells Castillo, &ldquo;Put your fucking hand down,&rdquo; as the young man tries to cover his face.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the scariest aspects of this video is how much worse this could have been for the officers, their families and the Chicago Police Department,&rdquo; Lynch said. &ldquo;Any one of these Latin Kings could have had a gun.&rdquo;</p><p>The officers&rsquo; attorney, William N. Fahy, said neither La Casa nor Contreras knew they were being recorded. Fahy&nbsp;insisted that Castillo &ldquo;was never in any kind of danger.&rdquo;</p><p>Fahy pointed out that Castillo was inside a squad car and that La Casa and&nbsp;Contreras &mdash; two armed police officers &mdash; were nearby. The attorney said the onlookers had &ldquo;no weapons and there were no threats.&rdquo;</p><p>Fahy said it was &ldquo;not unusual&rdquo; for police officers to give a young person a ride home. He said La Casa and Contreras did not inform dispatchers about the trip because it was just a few blocks and the cops &ldquo;didn&rsquo;t want to tie up the radio.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Across Gang Lines</strong></p><p>La Casa and Contreras testified they had never met Castillo and knew nothing about him when they arrived the afternoon of March 19, 2011, on the 3500 block of West McLean Avenue, part of the Logan Square neighborhood. The officers, assigned to patrol housing projects in the police department&rsquo;s Shakespeare District, were assisting two beat cops on a call that a dispatcher had identified as a &ldquo;gang disturbance.&rdquo;</p><p>One of those officers, Michael Edens, testified that he had encountered the youths many times. Edens called them members of a gang known as the Imperial Gangsters. The cops did not arrest any of the youths the day of the incident.</p><p>Edens acknowledged he suggested that La Casa and Contreras bring Castillo to an address on the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue, a Latin Kings stronghold in nearby Humboldt Park. But Edens said he was responding to a similar suggestion by Contreras and called it all a joke between the officers.</p><p>It was well known in the area that the Imperial Gangsters and Latin Kings did not get along but La Casa and Contreras&nbsp;testified they did not think Edens was joking about the Spaulding address.</p><p>Edens had no authority over La Casa or Contreras. The three officers held the same rank.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras&nbsp;brought Castillo to the Spaulding block, where an onlooker shot the video. The officers stayed there about 10 minutes, witnesses told WBEZ, before driving the youth away. The officers said they dropped him off back on McLean.</p><p>WBEZ spotted the video on YouTube within days of the incident. The department stripped La Casa and Contreras of their police powers and began an Internal Affairs investigation.&nbsp;Interim police Supt. Terry Hillard called the incident &ldquo;not professional&rdquo; and said &ldquo;scared straight&rdquo; tactics were always inappropriate.</p><p>Some Logan Square homeowners, meanwhile, praised the efforts of La Casa and Contreras&nbsp;to combat gang activity and called for their return to duty. Other community members expressed sympathy for Castillo and recalled similar alleged police mistreatment.</p><p>Castillo did not suffer physical harm but received $33,000 from the city as part of a settlement in a civil suit over the incident, according to an attorney representing him. The suit, filed in federal court, alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.</p><p>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office reviewed the incident but declined to bring a criminal case.</p><p>McCarthy filed the dismissal charges with the board in September, almost 18 months after the incident. The charges triggered an unpaid suspension of the officers, who had been assigned to administrative duties since losing their police powers.</p><p>Among other charges, McCarthy&nbsp;accused La Casa and Contreras of unlawfully restraining the youth,&nbsp;bringing &ldquo;discredit upon the department,&rdquo; and making a &ldquo;false oral statement&rdquo; about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective.</p><p><strong>Character Witnesses</strong></p><p>At the hearing Wednesday, the officers brought in neighborhood residents and former co-workers as character witnesses. Those included Janette Gilmartin, a behavioral health clinician at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center.</p><p>La Casa, an Illinois-licensed clinical counselor, worked with Gilmartin for more than three years before joining the police department in 1999. While suspended from the department, La Casa has returned to the hospital full-time, Gilmartin said.</p><p>Gilmartin, who now supervises La Casa, called her an honest and fearless professional who displays unrelenting compassion for people with severe mental illnesses. &ldquo;She&rsquo;s the only one I trust with complicated patients,&rdquo; Gilmartin said, &ldquo;and many of these are ex-gang members.&rdquo;</p><p>Fahy pointed out the two cops are both immigrants. La Casa grew up in Seville, a city in southern Spain, and moved to California at age 25 before settling in Chicago two years later. Contreras, born in Mexico City, came to the Chicago area with his family at age 12 and graduated from Morton East High School in Cicero.</p><p>The Police Board hearing lasted two days. The board&rsquo;s nine members, who did not attend, will receive a transcript and video recording of the proceedings. Hearing officer Thomas E. Johnson, who presided on both days, will eventually present the case to the board in a closed-door session. The board will vote on both the charges and punishment.</p><p>Regarding the charges, the board must decide whether the police department showed &ldquo;a preponderance of the evidence,&rdquo; a standard less rigorous than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt measure used in criminal courtrooms.</p><p>The officers have more than a glimmer of hope the board will reject McCarthy&rsquo;s dismissal recommendation and return them to duty. In 2012, according to a board summary, the panel fired just 10 of 48 officers the police department had recommended for dismissal.</p><p>In 22 cases, the board either found the officer not guilty of the charges or decided the fitting punishment was a suspension. In 14 cases, the department withdrew the charges after the officer resigned or the sides reached a settlement. In 2 cases, the board dismissed the charges.</p><p>Under Illinois law, either the superintendent or the officers can appeal a Police Board decision to Cook County Circuit Court.</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 18:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/fate-cops-gang-video-now-police-board-105520 Neighborhood leader to testify for cops caught on gang video http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-leader-testify-cops-caught-gang-video-105491 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/N29A9919edited.JPG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 272px; width: 300px;" title="Susana La Casa, one of the accused officers, leaves the Chicago Police Board after the start of its hearing in her dismissal case last week. She and fellow cop Luis Contreras face administrative charges of unlawfully arresting a youth in the city’s Logan Square neighborhood in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Samuel Vega/Hoy)" />Two Chicago police officers facing dismissal charges for an incident <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cops-gang-video-%E2%80%98we-were-giving-youth-ride-home%E2%80%99-105382">caught on a gang video</a> could get a boost Wednesday from a character witness who once trained young people how to file reports on abusive cops.</p><p>Eric Hudson, who staffed a youth program for Amnesty International in Chicago&rsquo;s Englewood neighborhood years ago, is scheduled to testify on behalf of officers Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras, who allegedly brought a young gang member to the turf of a rival gang to be threatened there.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to go down there, speaking as a black homeowner,&rdquo; said Hudson, who leads his condominium association in Logan Square and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/caps/police-video-cops%E2%80%99-supporter-speaks-out-84627">worked with La Casa and Contreras</a> for years to sweep gangs from streets near the building. &ldquo;They hustled, they got out of their police cars, they made this community safer.&rdquo;</p><p>La Casa and Contreras, represented by attorney William N. Fahy, are planning to call Hudson to the stand as they present their defense during the second day of a Police Board hearing that began last Wednesday.</p><p>On the hearing&rsquo;s first day, the officers testified they merely tried to give Miguel &ldquo;Mikey&rdquo; Castillo a ride home the afternoon of March 19, 2011. After they arrived on the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue, an onlooker recorded a 90-second video that showed the officers outside their marked SUV with the doors open as other onlookers converged on the vehicle, flashed gang signs and taunted Castillo, who was in the backseat trying to cover his face.</p><p>A YouTube user whose alias was &ldquo;King-Dubb&rdquo; posted the video that weekend. WBEZ copied the recording shortly before it disappeared from YouTube. A WBEZ reposting led to a storm of accusations that such police conduct was a Chicago tradition.</p><p>Within days, the department had stripped La Casa and Contreras of their police powers and assigned them to the city&rsquo;s non-emergency call center. Interim police Supt. Terry Hillard called the incident &ldquo;not professional&rdquo; and said &ldquo;scared straight&rdquo; tactics were always inappropriate.</p><p>But Hudson, joined by other Northwest Side residents and some business owners, circulated a petition that called for the return of the officers to street duty.</p><p>Nearly two years later, Hudson still has their backs. &ldquo;Especially now, with bodies in the street, we need police officers that care,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And these police officers care.&rdquo;</p><p>James P. Lynch, an attorney representing police Supt. Garry McCarthy in the dismissal case, says the officers unlawfully restrained the youth in Logan Square, transported him &ldquo;against his will&rdquo; to Latin Kings turf in nearby Humboldt Park without a valid police purpose, and allowed suspected members of that gang to threaten him there.</p><p>In his opening statement last Wednesday, Lynch called the conduct of La Casa, 49, and Contreras, 44, a &ldquo;travesty captured on video.&rdquo; He later questioned the officers about dozens of moments in the recording, projected on a wall near the witness stand.</p><p>La Casa, despite working in the department&rsquo;s Shakespeare District for almost 12 years, claimed to be unfamiliar with the hand gesture used by the Latin Kings to identify membership in the gang. On the video, many of the onlookers make that gesture and vocally identify themselves as &ldquo;kings.&rdquo;</p><p>The officers testified they didn&rsquo;t understand those statements, even when played during the hearing. La Casa said she couldn&rsquo;t understand because, as a native of Spain, English was her second language.</p><p>Contreras, who grew up in Cicero and worked in the district for eight years, testified that Castillo never faced any danger in the SUV. &ldquo;I felt we had the whole situation under control,&rdquo; Contreras said.</p><p>Fahy, the officers&rsquo; attorney, said it was not uncommon for cops to give people a ride home.</p><p>Castillo did not suffer physical harm but, according to an attorney representing him, he received $33,000 from the city as part of a settlement in a civil suit over the incident. The suit, filed in federal court, alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.</p><p>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office reviewed the incident in 2011 but declined to bring a criminal case.</p><p>The dismissal charges, signed by McCarthy and filed with the board in September, accuse La Casa and Contreras of bringing &ldquo;discredit upon the department.&rdquo; The officers later each allegedly &ldquo;made a false oral statement&rdquo; about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective.</p><p>After the defense calls its witnesses, the sides will give closing arguments. A hearing officer, Thomas E. Johnson, will present the case to the board at a meeting this spring. The board, a nine-member panel, will rule on the charges and punishment.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras, meanwhile, are suspended without pay.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 12 Feb 2013 20:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/neighborhood-leader-testify-cops-caught-gang-video-105491 Cops on gang video: ‘We were giving youth a ride home’ http://www.wbez.org/news/cops-gang-video-%E2%80%98we-were-giving-youth-ride-home%E2%80%99-105382 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/police-mistreatment-video_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="396" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/21441880?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;badge=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="590"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><a href="http://vimeo.com/21441880">The video, spotted by WBEZ, shows Chicago officers Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras on the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue on March 19, 2011.</a></span></p><p><em>Updated at 4:30 p.m.</em></p><p>Two Chicago police officers who were caught on a gang video say they were trying to give a young man a ride home, not bringing him to a gang that would threaten him, as police Supt. Garry McCarthy alleges in a recommendation to fire the cops.</p><p>Officers Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras took the witness stand Wednesday as the city&rsquo;s Police Board began its main hearing in a dismissal case that has pitted cop against cop and drawn conflicting reactions from neighborhood residents. The officers had not defended themselves in public since the 2011 incident.</p><p>James P. Lynch &mdash; an attorney representing McCarthy, who did not attend the hearing &mdash; outlined the dismissal charges, which were filed with the board in September. Lynch accused the officers of unlawfully restraining the youth, transporting him &ldquo;against his will&rdquo; to Latin Kings turf without a valid police purpose, and allowing suspected members of that gang to threaten him there.</p><p>The youth, Miguel &ldquo;Mikey&rdquo; Castillo, did not suffer physical harm in the incident, which began in Logan Square, a Northwest Side&nbsp;neighborhood.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras testified they had never met Castillo and said they knew nothing about him when they arrived on the 3500 block of West McLean Avenue&nbsp;the afternoon of March 19, 2011. La Casa and Contreras were assisting two officers who had handcuffed Castillo and three other youths there.</p><p>One of those officers, Michael Edens, testified that he had encountered the youths many times and called them members of a gang known as the Imperial Gangsters. The officers did not arrest any of the youths the day of the incident.</p><p>In the hearing, Edens acknowledged he suggested that&nbsp;La Casa and Contreras bring Castillo to an address on the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue, a Latin Kings stronghold in&nbsp;nearby Humboldt Park. But Edens said he was responding to a similar suggestion by Contreras and called it all a joke between the officers.</p><p>The three officers all testified they were familiar with the area&rsquo;s gang territories based on years of experience patrolling their department&rsquo;s Shakespeare District.</p><p>Contreras said he and La Casa did not think Edens was joking about the Spaulding address and said they thought he was asking them to drive Castillo home. &ldquo;He told us to make the transport,&rdquo; Contreras said.</p><p>Edens had no authority over La Casa or Contreras. The three officers shared the same rank.</p><p>Once La Casa and Contreras brought Castillo to the Spaulding block, an onlooker recorded a 90-second&nbsp;video showing the two officers outside their SUV with the doors open as other onlookers converged on the vehicle and taunted the young man inside.</p><p>WBEZ spotted the video on YouTube within days of the incident.&nbsp;After the department stripped La Casa and Contreras of their police powers, some Logan Square homeowners praised their efforts to combat gang activity and called for their return to duty. Other community members sympathized with Castillo and told similar stories of alleged Chicago police mistreatment.</p><p>At the hearing, Lynch called the conduct of La Casa and Contreras a &ldquo;travesty captured on video&rdquo; and questioned them about dozens of moments in the recording, projected on a wall near the witness stand.</p><p>La Casa said she regretted yelling, &ldquo;Put your fucking hand down,&rdquo; at Castillo as he tried to block his face from view in the backseat of the SUV, a Chevrolet Tahoe with standard police markings. La Casa said she was &ldquo;frustrated&rdquo; and &ldquo;confused&rdquo; that Castillo did not leave the SUV after she and her partner brought him to the Spaulding block.</p><p>La Casa also claimed she was not familiar with the hand gesture Latin Kings use to identify their membership in the gang. On the video, many of the onlookers make that gesture and vocally identify themselves as &ldquo;kings.&rdquo;</p><p>La Casa and Contreras, represented by attorney William N. Fahy at the hearing,&nbsp;said Castillo never faced any danger in their backseat and said they had the situation under control.</p><p>The charges accuse La Casa and Contreras of bringing &ldquo;discredit upon the department.&rdquo; The officers later each allegedly &ldquo;made a false oral statement&rdquo; about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective.</p><p>The board&rsquo;s nine members did not attend the hearing, an adversarial process resembling a criminal trial. Thomas E. Johnson, a hearing officer, presided. The hearing is scheduled to resume next week.</p><p>The board will rule on the charges and punishment. The department must show &ldquo;a preponderance of the evidence,&rdquo; a standard less rigorous than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt measure used in criminal courtrooms.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras, meanwhile, are suspended without pay.</p><p>Castillo received $33,000 from the city as part of a settlement in a civil suit over the incident, according to the law firm representing him. The suit, filed in federal court, alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.</p><p>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office reviewed the incident in 2011 but declined to bring criminal charges.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 06 Feb 2013 13:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cops-gang-video-%E2%80%98we-were-giving-youth-ride-home%E2%80%99-105382 Cops caught on gang video to defend themselves http://www.wbez.org/news/cops-caught-gang-video-defend-themselves-105368 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/police-mistreatment-video_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="396" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/21441880?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;badge=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="590"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><a href="http://vimeo.com/21441880">An amateur video spotted by WBEZ shows Chicago officers Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras after they brought a young gang member to the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue on March 19, 2011.</a></span></p><p>Two Chicago cops who face dismissal after getting caught on a gang video are scheduled to defend themselves in public for the first time Wednesday as the city&rsquo;s Police Board begins its main hearing on the case.</p><p>Police Supt. Garry McCarthy is recommending the dismissal of officers Susana La Casa and Luis Contreras based on internal charges they unlawfully restrained a young man in the Logan Square neighborhood and let suspected gang members threaten him.</p><p>The charges, filed with the board in September, accuse La Casa and Contreras of holding the youth, Miguel &ldquo;Mikey&rdquo; Castillo, against his will on the 3500 block of West McLean Avenue on March 19, 2011.&nbsp;The officers then drove him about six blocks south &ldquo;without a valid police purpose,&rdquo; according to the charges.</p><p>The officers brought Castillo, a gang member, to the 1600 block of North Spaulding Avenue &mdash; the turf of a rival gang. The incident came to light when WBEZ spotted a 90-second amateur video that shows the cops outside their marked SUV with the doors open as onlookers converge on the vehicle, taunt the young man inside and flash gang symbols.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras, according to McCarthy, brought &ldquo;discredit upon the department.&rdquo; The officers later each allegedly &ldquo;made a false oral statement&rdquo; about the incident to an Internal Affairs detective.</p><p>The board, a nine-member panel, has the final word about the charges and punishment. The hearing, an adversarial process that could last days, resembles a criminal trial. A hearing officer presides.</p><p>The police department must show &ldquo;a preponderance of the evidence,&rdquo; a standard less rigorous than the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt measure used in criminal courtrooms.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras, meanwhile, are both suspended without pay. Their attorney, William Fahy, declined to comment about the case.</p><p>A Fraternal Order of Police spokesman said the union would have no comment because the officers had chosen private counsel.</p><p>La Casa and Contreras have not spoken about the incident publicly but, after WBEZ posted the video, some Logan Square homeowners praised their efforts against gangs and called for their return to duty.</p><p>The city paid $33,000 to Castillo as part of a settlement in a civil suit over the incident, according to the law firm representing him. The suit, filed in federal court, alleged false arrest and intentional infliction of emotional distress.</p><p>State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office reviewed the case in 2011 but declined to bring criminal charges.</p></p> Tue, 05 Feb 2013 20:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cops-caught-gang-video-defend-themselves-105368