RIVER NORTH — Saying the world is "upside down" in the face of "the anti-police movement that's taken hold," the head of Chicago's police union Tuesday called for the "silent majority" to be more vocal in support of police.
"The perception of a lot of police officers in the city of Chicago is that nobody has their backs," Dean Angelo Sr., president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said in a luncheon address to the City Club on Tuesday. He spoke of a "deafening silence" in support of police as they deal with an "enormous level of confrontation, a level of disrespect we have not seen."
Angelo blamed the "Ferguson effect," referring to last year's police protests over the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and said people who record officers with their phones are "hoping for a payday."
He also said new demands for increased paperwork contributed to why Chicago Police "are down over 150,000 street stops" this year.
"We have an Orlando every month in Chicago, and no one seems to raise an eyebrow," Angelo added. He predicted the city could hit 700 murders for 2016, adding, "I don't know what the Fourth of July weekend's going to bring."
Angelo said he "can't wait" for Chicago Police to release raw video of police wearing bodycams to show what officers face, routinely being called "every name in the book" in an attempt at provocation. "The level of boldness has increased in some of the higher crime areas," he added.
"There is an element out there right now that constantly wants to stir the pot," Angelo said. "We are at a very difficult and a very sensitive time."
Angelo said there were "only" 404 police shootings over an eight-year period ending last year, while there were 13,000 cases of assault on officers over that same time frame.
A week after leading figures, including the Chicago Police superintendent, addressed the city's problem with gun violence, the department's local union leader gave his side of the story in the City Club speech.
Angelo, an outspoken defender of Chicago police, said the vast majority of narcotics arrests, gun arrests and murders take place in 20 wards where unemployment runs highest in the city.
"People need to work," Angelo said. "You can't police your way out of it, but you look to the police to handle it."
According to Angelo, the "humanization of policing" is the untold story in the media. "We're human," he said. "We're just like everybody else."
Angelo welcomed the change in Chicago Police overtime policy announced Tuesday encouraging officers to work extra hours in their own districts, including what he said were 25 identified "hot spots" for high levels of crime. Yet he called for it to be expanded.
"Officers will take advantage of this," Angelo said. "It'd be nice if it was citywide and that every district had the opportunity to participate in working their days off."
According to Angelo, there's not an area in the city where residents don't feel they could use more police on the street.
Angelo said he had a meeting scheduled soon with new Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson "and that's probably one of the things I'll bring up."
Angelo said he expected police contract talks to heat up next year.
"We're the last on the list," he said, after the city reaches new deals with sergeants and lieutenants and then firefighters. "So they'll paint us into a corner again," he predicted, with claims of a money shortage.
"This is going to be quite a difficult negotiation for us," Angelo said, adding that he would not be negotiating in the media.
Angelo also took issue with the release of Shaquille O'Neal, who was freed after a video emerged showing a police officer kicking him in the head in an arrest.
"We are more than tired of being considered by some to be second-class citizens and not worthy of the same protections under the law guaranteed to any other citizen," Angelo wrote in a letter posted on the union's Facebook page in which he signed off: "Be safe and God bless the Police."
O'Neal was subsequently arrested again and charged with aggravated battery.
Angelo made little reference to police misconduct Tuesday. Although he did allow there were officers he wouldn't want his son, also a police officer, to ride with, he cited longtime radio commentator Paul Harvey in saying that "less than one-half of 1 percent of police officers tarnish their uniform, which is less than the problems we have with our clergy."
Supt. Johnson said last week at the City Club that he saw "progress" in trying to rebuild trust between officers and residents. In an earlier City Club appearance, Johnson also said he had worn a bodycam and seen that it had an effect changing not only police behavior, but that of those officers confront on the street.
Angelo, a proud member of a family with four generations of Chicago police officers, is nonetheless of short stature, and he broke the ice in his City Club speech by saying, "I'm glad to see you saved the mayor's podium for me. This one fits."
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