Policing our very own community will generate much needed respec

The Chicago Police Department’s decision to issue M4 carbine assault rifles to its officers is reprehensible, but unfortunately, understandable. The determination to use the same weapon being used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq is chilling. It begs the question

Jody Weis, police superintendent, who was trained as an FBI agent, and not as a street cop, explained last week that the new armament is intended as an equalizer to the firepower some thugs are using as their standard equipment.

No one on the right side of the law wants to see cops at a disadvantage when it comes to protecting themselves; however, is a “my gun is as big as your gun” approach a solution to reducing and or eliminating the violence that put 54 people in the hospital or grave during the last two weekends? No, it is not.

Throw in the S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams and helicopters Weis said will be dispatched to the South and West Sides, and the cops have put segments of the city on par with a third-world war zone. Pitiably though, the Black community en masse has given Weis, and his boss, Mayor Richard M. Daley, the perception that it is OK to treat us like Baghdad West simply because we haven’t done an adequate job of policing ourselves.

Of course part of our tax dollars go toward paying police for the investigative and patrol work they do, as well as some interventions, traffic enforcement, et al. But we have failed miserably as a community when we allow family and friends to buy, carry and use guns with impunity. The dullest among us know that no good comes from immature minds deciding to arm themselvesû whether for revenge or protection. And it’s not just weapons.

When we see a neighbor or someone from down the block being beaten and we turn our backs, we’re perpetuating that behavior and essentially sanctioning it. We too often look the other way, file no police reports, but gossip about it with neighbors. When that same fate befalls us, suddenly we want everyone to give testimony to the cops. A tolerance for crime, whether it’s break-ins, shootings, or carjacking only fertilizes the atmosphere for more of the same. Mothers wail that their son who just shot and killed someone was “a good boy.”

Nonsense, that is not what decent, let alone, good people do. In our community, we too often have condoned a culture of criminality. Sure, there are laws we might not like, but they should be adhered to, even the seemingly small ones. It has become clear that we can’t allow any sort of crime to fester in our community because it has such enormous growth potentialû the dice game in the vacant store front turns into a shooting.

A man slapping a woman in public turns into a retaliatory shooting by the woman’s brother or ex. But the result is the sameûanother victim. Stopping some crimes is impossible. But getting to the point where we are willing to step up and report them, and check ourselves and not commit them, is a gargantuan first step. It is the step that should lead to a more meaningful discussion between cops and civilians and some solutions.

The assault rifle plan is not one of them. It is our community and we can’t or shouldn’t expect Weis or Daley to care about it like we should. It looks like the city will spend more than a million bucks to get the assault rifles and requisite training.

Some would question if we even have a right to demand that those kinds of dollars go into the community rather than to an arms dealer. But once we begin to say no to the criminal elements in our community, once we put pressure on police to arrest those we turn in; then we have more than the right to demand our community be treated like part of Chicago, and not a war zone.

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  

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