Letters to the Editor

In a recent report, the Office of the Inspector General for Chicago (OIG) revealed that when complainants refuse to sign a sworn affidavit confirming the truth of their allegations against a police officer, the investigating agency, either the Chicago Police Department (CPD) or the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), did not override the person’s refusal 25 percent of the time.

This study looked only at cases where people refused to swear they’re telling the truth, not cases where complainants affirmed their assertions of police misconduct. In 25 percent of cases in which people refused to swear they are telling the truth, the investigating agency did not override their refusal. That means that in 75 percent of those cases where people refused to swear they are telling the truth, the CPD or COPA still investigated the allegations against a police officer.

I am a Beverly resident, and there are two points to this letter.

First, trust is vital in any relationship. Although the word is often thrown around when discussing interactions between police officers and the community, trust is, in fact, a key pillar when building and sustaining friendly, inclusive communities.

Not only should we desire to have trust in our police officers, but we must also pursue trust with other members of our communities. That includes trusting that our schools and teachers are providing a positive learning environment for our students; that our local elected officials will regulate genuinely for the protection of public health, safety, morals and welfare; that our local businesses are providing dependable services—from the grocer offering healthy, fresh food, to the mechanic providing a frank evaluation and a fair price for repairs; that our doctors are fully informing us about our health; and that, as neighbors, we will look out for each other, including by knocking on an elderly neighbor’s door to check if everything is all right if we haven’t seen them lately.

Because there are so many stakeholders in the well-being of our communities, trust is a necessary feeling of security, one that helps all of us share the belief that someone is knowledgeable, reliable, good, honest and effective.

Regarding the OIG report that the investigating agencies continued an investigation even in the cases in which a person declined to sign an affidavit, we must first ask why people would refuse to swear the allegation they assert against the police officer is true and accurate. If the obligation of trust fades away at the individual level, I then suggest that any trustworthy role the person assumes, such as teacher, neighbor, politician, banker, truck driver, mechanic, doctor, nurse, business owner or religious leader, is tainted as well.

Trust cannot happen with individualism or when being wholly independent; trust always involves more than one person: the one who trusts and the one who is trustworthy.

The second point of my letter is to urge all of us to start focusing on the positives of life. One thing we all share is to have imperfections, and we should strive to be more genuine, heartfelt and honest about our imperfections. Often, we can be preoccupied worrying about the future or pondering past events that we become oblivious to the goodness that surrounds us in the present moment.

When it released its report, the OIG ignored that, in cases where individuals refused to swear they are telling the truth, the agencies still investigated the allegations even though the officers under investigation lacked a fundamental due-process right that we all otherwise enjoy: the right to confront an accuser.

Here are some analogies. Say that, during a basketball game, your child took 12 shots and made nine. However, on the way home, you focused only on the three missed shots. Or, say your child was accepted into 15 colleges, but you harped on the five that did not accept him or her. Or, your daughter nailed her dance recital, but, on the drive home, you highlighted the one imperfection.

I recommend that we all try to focus on the positives. If your child receives four high marks and one low mark, congratulate him or her on the high marks and remark that you noticed the hard work. I bet children will, of their own accord, indicate that they need to bring up the lower grade.

I ask local residents to apply those positive concepts to the issues that face our community and city. Sometimes, it seems as if people want to relentlessly discuss the few bad occurrences in our community and city. Although some incidents have been significant, I find we are as much at fault as the mainstream media is when we discuss the few bad things far more than we discuss the overwhelming number of good things.

And, by no means do I suggest that we lighten up on accountability and transparency. Rather, I believe that, if we think positively, our mental and physical health will improve and we’ll trust each other more. We should commit to believing that good is stronger than bad and that, if good grabs our attention more, we will solve problems in our community and city with more creativity, greater problem-solving skills and clearer thinking.

Joe Bird