The Watch

News and Information for Chicago FOP members.

Chicago Media and PTSD in the Police

Media Activists Driving Police Depression?

It was a rare moment of good journalism in the Chicago Tribune about the toll that allegations of police misconduct can take on the mental health of an officer. 

In the 2014 article, reporter Anne Sweeney described how a young officer became so distraught about being targeted in a civil lawsuit over a fatal shooting that he took his own life. 

From the Tribune article:

In extended interviews with the Tribune over the last month, the [officer’s family] offered a rare glimpse at the mental toll such lawsuits can take on police officers, explaining how [the officer’s] stress mounted and his worry deepened in the final two weeks of his life. After talking to city attorneys, it became clear to [the officer] that his life — not to mention his friends and family — would come under the microscope in ways he had not imagined, his family said.

For someone who didn’t like letting people down and worried about always performing at a high level, the growing anxiety over the lawsuit might have simply been too much, his family said.

The attorney suing the officer was Kathleen Zellner, also a prominent wrongful conviction attorney. Zellner attained some notoriety when she was hired to represent Steven Avery, the central character in the documentary Making a Murderer. Zellner claims Avery is innocent of the murder, but the justice system dealing with him is not like Chicago’s, not yet anyway. And so Avery remains in prison.

In the five years since the Tribune published this story about the mental toll that lawsuits impose upon the police, the industry of suing the police has expanded exponentially. And the mental health of police officers has diminished in proportion. 

This trend reveals a truth the Chicago media will not acknowledge: Over the last twenty years, the local media, led by the Tribune, has moved wholly into the ideological camp of the anti-police movement, particularly the law firms that specialize in suing police over allegations of police misconduct. 

Scores of honest Chicago Police officers have seen their careers and reputations destroyed by a militant press campaign against them, led by the Tribune. This campaign has willfully ignored evidence exonerating the officers and detectives as well as evidence that indicts their accusers. 

The champions of this movement were Tribune writers Eric Zorn and Steve Mills. Together, they allied the Tribunewith a consortium of anti-police law firms to push the narrative of police corruption, one of their favorite words being “systemic.” 

Mills and Zorn led the charge against one officer or detective after another, a media campaign that no doubt played a central role in the city’s decision to ultimately settle lawsuits against them. The city continued to do so even after so much evidence arose that the Tribune’s narratives were completely false, like the wrongful conviction claims of Anthony Porter, Madison Hobley, Nicole Harris, and Tyrone Hood. 

Now, no police officer is safe from the mendacity of the Chicago media, and the mental health of police officers has deteriorated in proportion to the onslaught in which the police have been falsely transformed into the criminals by the likes of the Tribune

Doubt it? Consider the fact that the law firms that specialize in suing the police openly boast of their media influence. In a 2016 panel discussion, “Trying a Case Outside of the Courts,” from the Exoneration Project, a key player in the legal attack on police officers, former Governor Quinn and members of the Exoneration Project discussed how their media “contacts” helped influence Quinn into commuting Tyrone Hood’s sentence for murder. 

Attorney Karl Leonard at the panel discussion:

I think media played a huge role at multiple stages. Tyrone’s case was one of the first cases that was considered by the State’s Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which I’m not to have thoughts on about how effective it is. But the reason Tyrone’s case was considered by the Conviction Integrity Unit at all was because of a piece done by the Tribune and Steve Mills at the Tribune, who wrote multiple articles about it. And through his questioning of the State’s Attorney’s Office, it basically led them to take the case and to look at it again. . . .

From Exoneration Project Director Eva Nagao:

This case has been really special for us because it was our·first foray into—not our first foray but maybe our biggest foray into really trying more dynamic ways of trying a case outside of the courts.And it was ultimately, you know, successful for Tyrone, if not·the greatest avenue, always.

The message is perfectly clear: Why try a case in the courts with the burden of actual evidence when you can just call up a Chicago Tribune reporter to do a hit job on the officers who arrested your client? Imagine being a police officer in a city that works, or doesn’t work, like this. Imagine the mental toll it takes having a media doing this kind of activism. 

But one doesn’t have to go back to 2016 to see the Tribune’s assault on the police taking shape. Reporter Dan Hinkel, clearly a disciple of the Zorn/Mills philosophy of activist journalism, is engaged in a media campaign of his own, this time against Officer Robert Rialmo, who is facing the loss of his job at a police board hearing for fatally shooting a bat-wielding assailant, Antonio LeGrier, and another innocent bystander by accident. What a thing to have to deal with. What an event to have hanging over your life. 

But Rialmo works in Chicago. And so despite the fact that detectives, the superintendent, experts, and a civil trial reviewed the shooting and ruled it justified, Dan Hinkel of the Tribune nevertheless launched his own relentless attack on Rialmo and the department, waging a win-at-any-cost campaign.

Hinkel’s approach mirrors that of his predecessors Mills and Zorn: Find an avenue to attack Rialmo for shooting the bat-wielding assailant. To do so, Hinkel leaves out key developments in the case that favor Rialmo, like the fact that civilian investigators hired out-of-state third parties to investigate it. He also ignored the evidence that these civilian investigators tried to hide these third parties from legal and public view.

And there are those highly suspicious media leaks casting a negative light on Rialmo from the city’s oversight board that somehow made their way to Hinkel, even though media leaks from the board are illegal.

Last week, Hinkel went so far as to write an article attacking Rialmo for a fund-raiser being held by police officers to support him. Hinkel attacked the fact that guns would be raffled off as prizes. 

So Rialmo, whose shooting was ruled justified by the superintendent, who won at a civil trial, cannot even have a fund-raiser, something that is afforded almost every accused police officer by his colleagues? And the police, who carry guns as part of their job, are raffling off guns to raise money? Oh, the injustice. The outrage. 

As an illuminating side note: When former Black Panther Bobby Rush called the FOP the “enemy of black people,” and Jamal Green called the FOP the Blue Ku Klux Klan, Hinkel had nothing to say.

In his tripe posing as journalism, Hinkel went so far as to describe LeGrier’s assault on Rialmo as “approaching” Rialmo with a bat. One would like to see how Hinkel would react to a highly agitated, mentally ill, aggressive assailant “approaching” him with a bat. Is there any doubt that Hinkel would flee, and he would call the police?

The Exoneration Project must be so proud of Hinkel. Will they give him an award? Will he speak at one of their panel discussions along with a governor who shirks off the entire criminal justice system and arbitrarily lets out convicted killers? 

There was a time when such overt, malevolent bias in a journalist would disqualify them from the industry. But so much has changed in the media the last 20 years, for the worst, that such bias is almost a requisite for a Chicago reporter or editor. That, or the reporters and editors who don’t agree with this cabal that has so undermined decent journalism are compelled to remain silent. 

In either case, with a few exceptions, there is a war on the Chicago Police by the Chicago media. Media punks like Hinkel are now the norm, and they are the primary source for the mental anguish, post-traumatic stress, and rampant depression in the police department. They are also a major reason for the city’s chronic violent crime and the low resolution rate for murders. There is blood on their hands. 

But guys like Hinkel would never admit it. They use the First Amendment to hide behind and disguise their machinations. But it makes you wonder. Imagine a guy like Hinkel trying to deal with a domestic battery call the police deal with every day.

Now, there’s a laugh. 

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