In Chicago, Police Held Accountable, Not Journalists
A reporter at the Chicago Tribune who refuses to address the overwhelming evidence that his paper has gotten so many anti-police narratives completely wrong has now set his crosshairs on the union that represents police officers.
Tribune reporter Dan Hinkel, beneath the headline As reform gains traction, Chicago police union pushes back, lashes out at the FOP on several fronts. In an article filled with highly suspicious claims and editorializing, Hinkel’s fury at the police for standing up for their members seems to know no bounds.
Let’s start with the article’s headline, Police reform “gains traction.”
What is taking shape in Chicago is a not battle over police reform per se, but instead a battle over the needfor police reform in the first place. Only a few weeks ago, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions denounced the attempt by two Democratic politicians to impose a consent decree on Chicago police is one example. The DOJ under Sessions also filed a brief against the consent decree in federal court. Then, just before he resigned, Sessions announced new criteria limiting such consent decrees. These are all powerful signs of growing opposition to, not traction for, the consent decree, which the FOP is fighting in court.
The fact of the matter is that the Trump administration has reversed the anti-police policies of Trump’s predecessor. Police unions throughout the country are excited to have a president who supports the rule of law. But for Hinkel, this is suspicious. The FOP Lodge 7 has “publicly aligned itself with President Donald Trump,” Hinkel writes in his article. What police union wouldn’t support a president who supports them? Is there any police department in the country that isn’t “aligning itself” with President Trump?
And then there is this gem. Hinkel gives voice, once again, to the attack on the FOP’s collective bargaining agreement. Why? Because it gives officers too many protections.
“Reform advocates want changes to a collective bargaining agreement that for years has given protections to officers in disciplinary cases,” Hinkel writes.
Really? Does Hinkel mean “protections” like cameras in the car, body-worn cameras, microphones, COPA, IAD, lawsuits, stop cards, and a malevolent media (of whom Hinkel may very well be the chairman)?
But there is something ironic in these statements by Hinkel. This is coming from a reporter at a paper whose staff is forming a union for the first time, whose social media blasts call for rights, wages, protections, and dignity in what they claim is a landscape of unfair markets and institutional abuses.
Despite the intense antipathy that exists between police officers and the Tribune, the FOP has not attacked the Tribune workers in their quest to form a union, even though attacking the collective bargaining rights of police officers is a daily theme in their stories.
So much for solidarity.
But what best illuminates the malevolence and bias that permeates every Hinkel and Tribune story about the need for police oversight is the fact that so many narratives claiming police corruption now appear completely false. Much of that evidence has emerged when attorneys representing accused police officers turn the tables on their accusers. In these cases, police corruption claims championed by reporters like Hinkel have gone back into the courtroom where attorneys for accused police officers accused their accusers. In Hinkel’s article, there is not a single word about these cases, a sign of just how one sided journalism has become in Chicago.
Two recent federal lawsuits allege a vast pattern of corruption in alleged police misconduct cases, cases going back four decades that set convicted killers and rapists free. How ironic, then, that Hinkel should attack the FOP, which is defending officers on trial for conspiracy in the Laquan McDonald shooting without mention of these cases that offer compelling historical context.
Here’s what Hinkel wrote:
[FOP President Kevin] Graham also has defended three officers who are charged with lying to protect Van Dyke after the shooting. Their indictment cites claims the officers made in their official reports that are contradicted by video, including that McDonald swung a knife at police and appeared to be trying to get up off the street as Van Dyke continued to shoot him.
But in the criminal case against the three officers, FOP attorneys played little “defense” in their motions. Instead, they let loose with a barrage of attacks accusing the special prosecutor in the case, Patricia Holmes, of misconduct, including the claim that “the prosecutor deliberately or intentionally misled the grand jury, knowingly used perjured testimony or presented deceptive or inaccurate evidence.”
From the Tribune:
Attorney James McKay, who represents March [one of the officers], added fuel to an already inflamed proceeding when he accused the special prosecutors of misconduct and alleged they misled the grand jury in order to further an unspecified political agenda. A former longtime assistant Cook County state’s attorney, McKay said the special prosecutors knowingly allowed grand jury witnesses to perjure themselves and did not tell jurors of their right to question witnesses.
The actions were so egregious, McKay said, the judge should dismiss the entire indictment. The three men were charged in June 2017, more than 18 months after the court-ordered release of police dashboard camera video of McDonald’s shooting sparked citywide protests and the ouster of several high-ranking public officials, including police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
Attorneys accusing those accusing the police? Here’s a theme Hinkel doesn’t dare investigate further. An investigation would open up a world of dirty little secrets Hinkel and the Tribune always ignore: The cases of Anthony Porter, Stanley Wrice, Anthony McKinney, Madison Hobley, the Ford Heights Four…All these cases have generated evidence of corruption not within the police force, but used as a weapon in lawsuits against officers.
A police officer can be disciplined, even indicted for ignoring evidence, but not a journalist. But not only does Hinkel ignore this evidence, he attacks the FOP for pointing it out:
One particularly visible FOP leader is spokesman and Second Vice President Martin Preib, who has alleged that the media and civil rights lawyers falsely accuse police of misconduct. The union’s official communications have adopted this theory, accusing media outlets of nurturing a “bloodthirsty antipathy to the police.”
There are quite a few more people than the second vice president making these claims, and these claims are a little bit more than “alleged.” Hinkel knows it because evidence to support these claims has been presented to him and other reporters at the Tribune time and again.
One of these cases is particularly compelling given Hinkel’s mention of the upcoming trial of three more officers in connection with the Laquan McDonald shooting. This one is tied to the very same special prosecutor, Patricia Holmes, who accuses the three officers of conspiracy.
Stanley Wrice was convicted by a jury in the 1982 of gang rape and burning of a woman in Wrice’s south side home. He was sentenced to 100 years in state prison. Employing the claim that he was coerced into confessing by so-called “Burge” detectives, Wrice got out. In his quest for freedom, a coalition of attorneys specializing in police misconduct lawsuits, filed an amicus curiae or “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Wrice.
Several prominent attorneys in the city signed onto the brief, including Holmes, now the special prosecutor in the case against the three officers.
But after Wrice got out, trouble emerged. Wrice and his attorneys applied for a certificate of innocence. In 2014 Judge Thomas Byrne denied the certificate because he thought Wrice was guilty.
From Hinkel’s own Chicago Tribune:
In a 44-page ruling, Judge Thomas Byrne concluded that what he called strong circumstantial evidence, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence recovered at the crime scene all “powerfully” pointed to the guilt of Stanley Wrice in the 1982 rape. . . .
“His description of the events defies common sense,” wrote Byrne. “It is simply inconceivable that he would not smell the charred flesh or the scent of burning paper (or) hear the sounds of the violent assault.”
Guess the judge saw problems with the case that few “investigative journalists” did, especially at the Tribune, even though the judge said Wrice’s claims “defy common sense.” The judge made another bombshell statement, calling the witness recantations in Wrice’s case “suspicious.” Suspicious witness recantations are now endemic in exonerations based on police misconduct lawsuits. Guess those suspicious recantations also got by the Tribune reporters.
Any serious journalist, any one worth his or her salt, that would go on about the long history of police scandals would at least mention these rejected narratives like the Stanley Wrice case, and particularly special prosecutor Holme’s connection to the Wrice case, as a sign that at least one of the claims against the officers might be bogus.
But admitting that any of these past exonerations have been shown to be false may be too problematic for Chicago journalists like Hinkel. The first one falls, how many others will follow? But Hinkel’s unwillingness to even acknowledge in his diatribe against the FOP evidence of an endemic corruption that has been weaponized and used against the police nevertheless puts Hinkel’s writing in sharper perspective. For beneath all the bravado of Hinkel’s anti-police articles, one senses a sweaty desperation, as if he is vainly trying to keep a hopeless narrative alive.
Talk about a code of silence.
How threatening it must be for Hinkel and the Tribune to finally have a police union pointing out just how badly the Tribune has covered an entire era of the criminal justice in Chicago. How threatening that the FOP will no longer cooperate with the newspaper until its writers begin to come clean on this massive amount of evidence.