A former punk enthusiast, Office Eric Jones was a new member of the Chicago police force when I first met him a few years ago. One of the first interviews I conducted for this project, Eric remains an intriguing character: a friend of a friend, who happened to also be a cop. He lives in Albany Park and patrols the area around Humboldt Park.
I’m a Chicago Police Officer. I’ve lived in this neighborhood for three years, Albany Park. We moved here because it was affordable. We previously lived in Ukrainian Village and we were just priced out of the neighborhood. There are a lot of condos going in here, now. I mean the building right next door was a twelve-unit building, and that was Section 8 Housing, as was the building across the street from that. Those have both been emptied out and are now being all turned into condos. Like the one across the street on Leland is still under construction and this one here I think they only have one or two units left. But now I see people who I’d normally see walkin’ around Wicker Park walking around here. Young starter couples. It’s not particularly affluent around here. It’s a good mix, though. If you go directly north to Lawrence Avenue there are Korean stores and Korean barbecue places and a little Korean tiki-like bar, and there are all the Nigerian cab drivers on Elston to Pulaski. It’s just crawling with diversity.
I work in the 14th district, the south side of Belmont Avenue to the north side of Division, west to Central Park Avenue and then east to the river. I’ve only been on the streets for six months.
Why did you become a police officer?
I hate having to go to the same building and spend my entire day inside a building all day. I like helping people. I like not knowing what I’m going to be doing next. I guess that’s about it. It’s just, every day you never know what you’re going to get into. I feel silly saying that, because I’ve only got six months on the streets, but it’s the truth. It’s hard to imagine the things you see, and you get paid to see it. It’s great.
Like, last night we got a call from the DEA. They were chasing some guy, and he jumped out a three-story window on to a neighbor’s roof and they had him trapped up there so we had to call the fire department, get a ladder, and bring him down. Once he got down, they brought the dogs to search for drugs and whatnot. Came up negative, but we still had to arrest him for criminal damage to property ‘cause he wrecked the gutters on the house next door. So that neighbor signed complaints, and once that happens we’re compelled to arrest that person. We could have arrested him for fleeing or eluding police, but he didn’t flee or elude us.
We were on location for like two hours, and then by the time you transport him to the district and then book him and all that stuff, it’s about another hour. But typically you can do a simple arrest in about 45 minutes to an hour. [A simple arrest would be] like a simple battery, like a fight, where you arrest somebody for deckin’ somebody in the jaw or somethin’. And that other person signs a complaint, you take them in, do all the paperwork, go through and make sure they don’t have any weapons or drugs on ‘em. Put ‘em in lockup. A simple battery, you’ll go to court for it, but that’s it. You’re not gonna be talking to the state’s attorney or anything, unless it was a heinous battery, where someone poured acid on another person or somethin’. There are cases that come along where you’ll have to talk to the state’s attorney real quick. Even if you go to court for a traffic ticket or something like that, sometimes you’ll have to testify. I mean, you never really know.
There’s a lot of boredom involved, too, though. I mean, in between jobs there are a lot of mundane things you have to do that, they are police work, but they’re not the exciting variety. Parking tickets. You have to do that just to unclog traffic, and people don’t seem to understand that. Traffic tickets. You’d think that pulling people over for running a red light would be boring, but that’s where you find a lot of guns and drugs. It’s sort of like winning the lottery.
It’s just a feeling kind of thing, a lot. And you get to know your local gang-bangers. When you seem ‘em riding around you can tell, is this guy a Satan’s Disciple, is this guy a Latin King, you know. What area of town is he in. Some of the cars people drive: if it’s a totally dangerous car with no brake lights and it looks like the wheel’s gonna fall off, you’re gonna pull that person over and say, Do you have insurance? Do you have a license? And if they don’t have that, then who knows where it can lead.