Area Two Gun Team and the culture of responding with willful blindness

On December 15, 2006 there was a fight at Tap Grille located at 323 N. Jefferson St. in Chicago. This bar fight resulted in some significant injuries to one group that was involved in the fight. One of the wounded individuals, according to published reports, needed to have facial reconstructive surgery. No significant injuries were recorded by the other group involved in the bar fight. When the night of the 15th ended, two groups of Chicago Police officers, according to a federal civil complaint filed on May 8, 2007, responded to the scene of the fight. However, not a single individual was arrested. In fact, according to published reports, the civil complaint, and recently filed Cook County criminal complaints (Planey, Powers, Barnes) the officers who arrived on the scene did not even lift a finger to investigate or offer aid to the wounded individuals. What could have possibly have led two different groups of responding officers to not intervene in such an obvious case of physical violence? Well, I define the answer as a culture of brutality and silence. According to the civil complaint, the group of individuals who did not end up with injuries or end up in cuffs were all members of the Chicago Police Department’s Area Two Gun Team. They were all cops! According to press reports and the civilian complaint, responding officers were talked into leaving the scene and disregarding their duties by Sgt. Jeffrey Planey. Sgt. Planey was one of the individuals involved in the fight and once the fight moved outside, talked the two different groups of responding officers into leaving. The other officers named in the federal civil court complaint are listed here divided by their participation in the fight or in leaving the scene because Sgt. Planey talked them into leaving.

Officers involved in the fight:

  • Sgt. Jeffrey Planey
  • Officer Gregory Barnes
  • Officer Demetrios Kereakes
  • Officer Vincent Matthews
  • Officer Matias Padilla
  • Officer Paul Powers

Officers who responded but then left the scene:

  • Sgt. Kingsley
  • Officer Carlyon
  • Officer Collins
  • Officer Lindahl
  • Officer Mayoski
  • Officer Pina
  • PPO Lupo
  • PPO Morabito
  • PPO Zarcone

According to the civil complaint, the first group of officers who responded to the fight at the bar never left their car. Also according to both published reports and the civil complaint most of the affair was caught on videotape. This incident occurred in December of 2006 yet the officers involved in the beating were not removed from the street until sometime in the end of March, or three months later.

With the entire media firestorm created around the Abbate videotaped beating of the female bartender, little attention has been paid to the details of this incident involving the Area Two Gun Team. The press and policy makers have seen the removal of those involved in the physical beating from the street as adequate action on the incident. My question is what happened to the responding officers that purposely shunned their duties in an effort to cover-up a viscous attach by other officers?

If the Department wanted to take steps towards true accountability, they would take serious disciplinary steps against those officers that left the scene. What has occurred is that the media has completely ignored their role in the incident and has failed to even identify the officers involved. The media in some effort to protect all the officers involved in the incident has not even published their names.

This incident clearly delineates the fact that a culture of brutality and silence is alive and well within the Chicago Police Department. The accountability system within the Chicago Police Department and the City of Chicago has completely disregarded the actions of officers involved in the cover up. This incident proves that in 2006 & 2007 a culture that has existed within the Chicago Police Department once called the “blue wall of silence” still operates within the agency without any repercussions from the hierarchy, the Chicago City Council, the Mayor, or the press.

Shouldn’t enterprising reporters be asking the officers that are on videotape leaving the scene why they left? Shouldn’t the media be asking the hierarchy of the Department why those officers are still on the street? Shouldn’t the press be asking Mayor Daley how his new “independent” Office of Professional Standards is going to combat and do away with this culture of brutality and silence? The answer to all three questions by this author is yes. The answer by the Chicago media, police officials, and the Mayor are no. Is this really a new day for accountability within the system or just shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic?

The three officers listed as PPOs are probationary officers, meaning officers in training. The night of the 15th they sure received valuable training. They were trained how to disregard their oaths and their responsibilities to the people of Chicago and instead keep their loyalties to fellow officers regardless of their brutal actions. Should we expect anything different from the three PPOs when they respond to their next officer involved violent beating?

On May 15 three of the police officers involved in the fight have been charged criminally in Cook County Court. The charges were filed after the Chicago Police and Superintendent Phil Cline ignored the incident hoping it would be able to swept under the rug without any discipline being brought against the officers. Due to public outrage over a series of crimes involving off duty officers authorities had no choice but to move forward against the officers.

Officer Paul M. Powers

  • 1 count of a class 3 felony of aggravated battery

Officer Gregory A. Barnes

  • 1 count of a class 3 felony of aggravated battery

Sgt. Jeffrey M. Planey

  • 2 counts of a class 3 felony of aggravated battery
  • 1 count of a class 4 felony of obstruction of justice/destroy evidence
  • 1 count of a class 3 felony of official misconduct – obtaining personal advantage from his position as a police officer

Chicago’s historical political machine always seems to pop up when incidents like this one become public. According to the arrest reports (Planey, Powers, Barnes) Planey had one visitor the night of his arrest, his lawyer, Thomas Needham. Needham was special counsel to former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard. It is amazing that with all the lawyers practicing in Chicago that one of these officers would seek out a former Chicago Police lawyer to represent them. Maybe they feel that Needham has contacts with the Chicago Police Department and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office that will allow him to manipulate the system and eventually free them from these charges, but that cannot happen in a city and county so rich in traditions of integrity and honesty, can it?

Tracy has nearly two decades of experience researching and working within criminal justice systems. When Tracy began pursuing a career dedicate to system reform, he found that no single organization existed to promote evidence-based discussions among law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Recognizing that citizens in Chicago deserved the right to demand transparency in their criminal justice system, Siska established the Chicago Justice Project. He received his Master of Arts degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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