Imagine being a police officer.
There’s a constant threat of being assaulted.
Now imagine being a police officer in Chicago. There have been 385 murders so far this year in the Windy City.
Peter Nickeas has spent years covering crime for the Chicago Tribune and during that time met many police officers. Nickeas spoke with some of them for a recent article in Chicago Magazine.
“I talked to a dozen officers—black and white, men and women, rookies and veterans, patrol cops and sergeants, detectives and undercover investigators. They spoke to me freely, on the condition of anonymity, about rookie jitters, job stress, the drug trade, use of force, the mayor, the toll of poverty and violence on children, and the allure of being a cop.”
Nickeas compiled numerous anecdotes in a multi-part series. Here are a few:
On my second day, someone threw a refrigerator out the window on top of the squad car. Lucky for us, we were in the building. We come out, there’s a big refrigerator.
The first time I dealt with something grisly or nasty, it was the day before Thanksgiving. We got a call about a 69-year-old lady who’d slipped crossing the Metra tracks. An express came by and hit her full speed, threw her through the air. Her body hit a partition near where all the people stood, but her head broke off and went another hundred, two hundred feet down the tracks, rolled in the rocks till it came to a stop. First thing I do is get the body bag and get the torso. Then I go down the tracks to pick up the head. I put my hand in the bag, kind of invert it, and just grab the head and pick it up. Then I zip it into the bag. The head’s a lot lighter than I thought it would be. ’Cause who knows what a head weighs? You don’t think about that until you’re holding one.
A gangbanger tossed a gun onto a roof, and we’re climbing the gutters trying to get up there. This old man comes out with a ladder. And I say, “Get yourself back in that house.” He says, “I don’t want them around either. I just want to help.” I tell him, “We can’t protect you 24 hours. If you show them that you’re helping us, these gangbangers are gonna throw a rock through your window.”
There was a little old lady used to call begging us to come: “They’re out there every day, selling dope.” There’s nothing we can do. The average citizen just doesn’t understand that. I have to explain, “Listen, they’ve got constitutional rights that don’t allow me to go kick their door in just because you’re telling me they’re selling dope upstairs. I don’t have the time to sit on this one house when there’s 50,000 other dope houses all over this district.” They don’t want to hear that. And I don’t blame them.
Who knows what will happen in a couple years with weed laws. They might release everyone. Dear God, that would be a nightmare.
There are, as mentioned, several parts to this series, each with a number of anecdotes. Please don’t let this deter you from reading. Though lengthy, this isn’t “War and Peace.” Please take the time to read it all, well worth your time.
What Cops Know