So, Eddie Johnson, superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, says he will give it a miss on Monday when President Trump addresses a gathering of police chiefs in the Windy City. “The values of the people of Chicago are more important than anything that he would have to say,” Johnson’s spokesman said in explaining the planned absence.
We’ll return to Johnson in a bit, but first I digress into a tale from my years working for the Los Angeles Police Department. It was my misfortune to be promoted to sergeant during a tumultuous time in the LAPD, when Bernard Parks was the department’s chief and seemed bent on destroying it from within with his autocratic style of management. The department’s leaders seemed more concerned with investigating petty personnel complaints than they were with fighting crime, and many, many officers, frustrated with the bureaucratic quagmire the LAPD became, left to work for other departments or abandoned police work altogether.
Of all the petty complaints I was aware of, one stands out as an example of the stupidity that seemed to grip so many in the management levels of the LAPD at the time. For officers working the day watch, who hit the streets at around seven a.m., it was a common practice (and still is) to leave roll call and proceed directly to their favored breakfast spot for a bite, thus ensuring a full stomach before the radio got busy and opportunities for a meal break became scarce. And though the LAPD manual dictates that officers remain in their division of assignment, it was (and still is) common practice for cops to cross-divisional boundaries or even city limits in search of a good breakfast burrito or stack of pancakes. Everyone did it, with the understanding that if you were assigned a call while you were eating, you paid your bill and went to handle it.
Despite the ubiquity of this practice, a lieutenant at my station lodged a complaint against an officer for having engaged in it. The officer, against whom the lieutenant held a grudge, had gone to a restaurant three blocks inside an adjacent division and was eating breakfast when he was assigned an emergency call. He dutifully left the restaurant and broadcast that he was responding to the call with lights and siren, but gave his originating location as the divisional boundary rather than the restaurant.
The lieutenant, I was told, was gleeful that he had caught the officer in a violation of policy and initiated the complaint, word of which reached the sergeants on the watch, myself among them. What followed may help explain why I did not promote beyond the rank of sergeant in more than 30 years with the LAPD. I explained to the lieutenant that if we were going to initiate complaints on anyone who took a meal break outside the division, we should begin cutting paper on every officer on the watch, every sergeant, and, yes, the lieutenant himself, for he regularly ate at the very same restaurant (and never once picked up the tab). If he was so eager to discipline the cop he disliked, I said, perhaps it should be for a violation every cop, every sergeant, and he himself did not commit at least once a week.
In the end, wiser heads in the chain of command prevailed and the complaint was shredded, as was my working relationship with the lieutenant. I did not lament the loss.