Despite recent reporting that incoming Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis intends a review of the Cozzi beating case he is powerless to address the issue. Once in a while it would be nice if the print media in Chicago, both the Tribune and Sun-Times were guilty in this case, asked a few follow-up questions. The Cozzi case has been adjudicated in accordance with the terms of the contract between the City and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union representing the officers. You can say that the result was not proper but there is nothing Weis or anyone else can do about the issue. Citizens of Chicago are going to deal with the repercussions of having a brutal officer back in uniform and on the streets of their community very soon.
These circumstances provide a convenient opportunity for the incoming superintendent to bring the issues surrounding the contract and accountability to the forefront of the public discourse. Instead of making the most out of the opportunity Weis faltered and used shallow rhetoric to comment on the issue. Weis can look as closely as he wishes; the case has been adjudicated in both internal mechanisms within the department and through the Cook County Court system. That is unless he is going to urge the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago to bring federal charges. The contract between the City and the FOP is truly where all the regulations regarding the operations of the accountability mechanisms are codified. The rhetoric that was spun by Weis during his confirmation hearings in front of the City Council did not truly reflect reality. As Weis was appearing in front of the City Council the latest version of the contract between the City and the FOP was being negotiated in secret.
Weis and the rest of the authorities within the Department and the City will have to live with the results of these secret negotiations. On the same topic the issue of how Cozzi was charged by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office with a misdemeanor rather than a felony has come up in the State’s Attorney’s race. According to reports, Cozzi hit a man cuffed to a wheelchair ten times in the head with a police issued club. Two of the candidates for Cook County State’s Attorney are jabbing at each other about their roles in the decision process that resulted in Cozzi be charged with a misdemeanor. This political sparring has done little to the discourse but reveal a single nugget of insight that the media continues to miss. The simple fact is that there is no internal documents within the State’s Attorney’s Office that prosecutors must sign to detail their decisions. This allows the prosecutors to point fingers at the media rather then provide documents that detail the reality of the events as they occurred. This institutional practice has been in place for decades in the Office. This process was also used to hide the role of the Police Superintendent and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in determining the charges in the Abbatte case. Both the prosecutors and Superintendent Phil Cline pointed fingers at each other when the misdemeanor charges became public. Once again they did not have to sign documents that detailed their decisions on the case. This is an institutional practice that works to the benefit of both the abusers and those in power that are seeking to protect them. The media should be asking why there is not some formal process codified in the daily processes of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Chicago Police Department. If officials cannot stand behind the decisions they make then they are not fit to hold their jobs.