The Department of Justice released a report this month that claimed Chicago police officers are poorly trained, improperly supervised and misconduct investigations are largely biased in favor of cops.
Morning Shift’s Tony Sarabia spoke with two men who served in the Chicago Police Department for decades, Joseph Moseley and Richard Wooten. The former officers discussed their reactions to the report and addressed “anti-police” sentiments.
Tony Sarabia: One thing that stuck out for me right away in the report is that it said CPD officers feel abandoned by the public and often by their own department. In your long experience, did you feel that was the case?
Richard Wooten: When you say “abandoned by the public” you have to understand that when we go through a change in time — coming from the 20th century to the 21st century — you have a change of mindset of people. But when officers are trained in a specific way, we’re used to actually functioning in a certain way. Quite naturally, when you get different reactions, different response from people — based on what you know how to do and how you do it — you would feel kind of distant. And that’s how it made me feel sometimes, with my practices.
Joseph Moseley: I think what you’re looking at is a paradigm shift. What happens when you have an institution that attempts to change but doesn’t change everything at the same time: it doesn’t work. Without calling names, our biggest problem — and I’ve said it, Richard and I have talked and I’ve talked to some of our other coworkers — it’s hard to lead a charge from behind. What I mean by that is there are those in positions that give orders that don’t necessarily understand the orders they’re giving. So how can you tell somebody to do something you’ve never done?
Sarabia: So is it a matter of not getting support from the higher-ups?
Moseley: In our department every year our officers have to take a test on ethics, but you turn around and you see City Council doesn’t have to take this ethics course. But we’re mandated, and if you don’t take that ethics course test you can be sanctioned. So you’re giving mixed signals … when you turn around and see how it doesn’t apply across the board and the leaders don’t necessarily follow the same constraints.
Sarabia: When you say leaders, do you mean the leaders within the department or leaders like the mayor and City Council?
Moseley: Let’s take C. All of the above.
Sarabia: But maybe the argument is that police, because they have people’s lives to contend with, we need to hold them to a higher standard.
Moseley: Well, look at it like this: Who crafts our orders? How the laws come about? Certainly the City Council, certainly the state legislature. But when those same laws don’t necessarily apply to certain individuals it sends mixed signals.
Wooten: We have to understand that the police department has become so intertwined with politics that a lot of the general orders and a lot of the mandates that come down on the officers are based on something that happened that could cause a political upscale — that could actually really blow up.
When I was in the 6th district, I remember we had to start sending reports to the alderman’s office about what happened the night before. We had to be accountable not only to the people in the community but also to the political forces. If things didn’t go right, it came back on us and we had to make some adjustments and have the officers do things a certain way. So your officers have to be very flexible and very diverse in how they serve community now.
We’re living in a time where politics are playing a major role in how officers perform on the street. When Joe says “All of the above”, you literally have to look at the management staff, supervisory staff but also your local officials.
Sarabia: The head of the Fraternal Order of Police said the report represented a continuing two-year trend of anti-police. What do you think of that?
Wooten: We have to understand the FOP is going to do what the FOP is supposed to do, and that’s protect the officers. I wouldn’t expect them to do anything different. But we have to understand that when reports like this are generated, it’s not an attack on the entire department. It’s an attack on the practices that the department is performing. And those practices arbitrarily protect the bad officers more so than the good officers. So we have to be very careful about scrutinizing reports like this.
Moseley: If we’re talking about this report, it’s interesting because a couple days before this was released, they released the Baltimore report. It almost rings verbatim. It’s two pages shorter, took them two years longer and it says the exact same thing. So you have to ask yourself, “Is this a boilerplate report?” Hopefully not.
Do I agree with it? Yes. Do I think they missed some things? Certainly.
Sarabia: What are a couple things that you think are missing?
Moseley: They could’ve talked about searches and seizures. They could have talked about how weapons are recovered. There’s a litany of things that I know that they could have talked about (and) addressed but they didn’t have time.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. Click ‘Play’ above to listen to the whole segment.