Who did that? What was that name? Why are there never names to go along with the actions?

In a recent Chicago Tribune article dated Sunday, August 27, 2006, details about the harrowing couple of days leading up to Christina Eilman’s tragic fall from a CHA building were revealed. The article discloses some intimate details of the parents and Eilman’s personal struggle to get medical attention for Eilman. The reporting on this issue including this article shows the cozy relationship that the Chicago Police Department enjoys with the Chicago media.

From the moment the story hit the media not a single account either by the police or the media has identified a single officer by name that was involved in the case. Why hasn’t this occurred? Does the public not have a right to know the name of the public employees involved in a tragic event that led to a women being raped and either jumping or being pushed from a window of a CHA high-rise?

In this most recent story, the Chicago Tribune was able to not only put together a detailed timeline of events, but they were also able to track a dozen women that were being held in the same area as Eilman. The Chicago Tribune was able to gather some very disparaging comments about the officers running the lock up that night at the 2nd District. That was interesting, but I think it would be more interesting to hear who those officers were and their version of events. Maybe something about how long they have been on the force and their history of civilian complaints.

It is not uncommon for the media in Chicago to refrain from publishing the name of officers that should be published. Take for example the media’s behavior surrounding officer-involved shootings. They do not report the officer’s name, unless that officer is injured. Of course then they are handed the material from the police with a nice color picture of the officer for their newscasts and front pages. It is indeed a tragedy when anyone individual is shot, but it no more a tragedy when an officer is shot then when any other individual is shot. What the media fails to see is that the police have a distinct interest in withholding the name of an officer involved in a shooting and it has nothing to do with the privacy of the officer. It has to do with transparency and accountability: both four-letter words to the Chicago Police.

As recent events surrounding the publishing of the Special Prosecutor’s report on 20 years of torture at the hands of the Chicago Police has proven, the Chicago Police cannot be trusted to investigate their own officers’ behavior. The Chicago Police withhold the names of officers involved in shooting or most any other incident because it stops outside entities attempts to track the actions of the their officers. They then state that their internal mechanisms are investigating and they are unable to discuss the issue due to the investigation. Well, when the investigation is done it is not released due to the fact that it would violate the privacy of the officer(s) in question. What a nice impenetrable wall of arguments the press has allowed the Chicago Police to create.

Who needs to account: In this case there are many that need to account for their behavior.

  • The parents talked to a minimum of two officers from California about their daughter’s problems.
  • The arresting officer(s) who should account for why he or they arrested a clearly mentally troubled women for causing a disturbance and why her actions were not considered those of a mentally troubled person? There might be a perfectly justifiable reason, but we will never know because the police have not been forced to provide one.
  • The watch commander who approved the arrest? Do procedures mandate that he/she check the condition of the arrestee or is he/she just taking the word of the arresting officer?
  • The lock-up officers that accepted Eilman into their custody from the arresting officer(s). Did they question her condition at the time of the transfer? Did they at any point seek consultation about how to handle the obviously troubled women from their superiors?

The Chicago Tribune

  • The reporters and editors for publishing a story that did not include the names of the officers involved.
  • The reporters and editors for failing to discuss what guidelines are in place for the Chicago Police in regards to handling mentally ill suspects.