WBEZ broke a big story yesterday, releasing a video that appears to show two Chicago Police Department officers engaging in what the station describes as “questionable” behavior. Standing outside a squad car, the officers allow a large group of men to gather closely around the open back door to hurl insults as well as apparent gang signs and slogans at another man, who is visibly shaken, in the back of the cruiser.
The radio station posted the story yesterday, showing the tape along with some words by staffers Steve Edwards and Robert Wildeboer and the station’s Pritzker Fellow Samuel Vega, who first found the clip. (Watch the video at WBEZ’s site.)
(Video interviews with Humboldt Park residents after the jump.)
Vega says he first came across the video on Facebook. Assuming it would be quickly pulled, he ripped the video, downloading it to his computer. As he predicted, the video and the user account did disappear within a few days–leaving Vega the only one known to have a copy of the tape besides its original owner.
The CPD responded to WBEZ’s request for comment late last night:<blockquote>Late Tuesday, the Chicago Police Department indicated that they’d received a complaint about the incident.
“In this incident, Department members reportedly demonstrated unbecoming conduct while an individual was in a Department vehicle,” the CPD said in a written statement released to WBEZ. “The conduct that is alleged does not reflect the behavior and core values of the men and women of the Chicago Police Department nor our commitment to serve the community in a professional manner.”
The Department said its Internal Affairs Division has been made aware of the allegations and an investigation remains ongoing.
In Humboldt Park Tuesday night, just hours after WBEZ first posted the story, many community members (particularly young people) said they, like Vega, had first seen the video through social networking sites. It had generated some buzz in the neighborhood–not for exposing a new phenomenon, they repeatedly alleged, but for being the first to catch it on tape. Many say they have heard stories of similar actions by police for years. “They’ve been doing that s— for decades,” a teenager walking down Division Ave. stated without stopping.
No such reports have been confirmed.
A teenager who asked not to be identified claimed he is a member of the Latin Kings, who he says is the gang gathered around the squad car in the video. He sympathizes with the man in the back of the squad car.
“It’s not right,” he states. “I realized that could’ve been me or one of my guys getting dropped off [in an opposing gang’s territory].”
Several Humboldt Park residents spoke candidly with Gapers Block about the video and larger issues of police and community tension in the neighborhood.
Janeida Rivera, 25, has lived in Humboldt Park her whole life. She says the incident captured in the video exposes the rift between police and community members that has existed for decades.
Rev. Dr. Pedro Windsor, spoke highly of the majority of the CPD in the neighborhood, but argues that disciplinary action is needed against the officers pictured in the video.
David Windsor, an anti-violence activist in the neighborhood, spoke briefly on what he says is the need for changes in police efforts against gangs.
The CPD investigation into the video is pending, but the Humboldt Park residents GB interviewed in the immediate wake of WBEZ’s release of the video seem to have their minds made up–if not about the specific incident in question, then at least about what they claim is the bigger rift between police and Humboldt Park community members.