Top cop McCarthy tries to recruit celebrities like Derrick Rose to combat ‘code of silence’
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org January 8, 2013 1:22PM
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:56PM
It’s one thing to follow rehabbing Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose when he tells you what pizza to eat or what gym shoes to wear.
It’s quite another when a star athlete with an entourage that includes private security guards tells crime victims and witnesses to put their fears aside and cooperate with Chicago Police.
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday he’s actively recruiting local celebrities like D-Rose to star in a public service campaign aimed at reversing the code of silence that has shielded known criminals and made it difficult for police to solve gang crimes.
“The question is, who is it that these kids would listen to? It’s not gonna be Garry McCarthy. Maybe it will be Derrick Rose. I don’t know,” McCarthy said after a news conference with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce plans to revitalize community policing.
“This is all under examination. It’s something that we’re looking to develop. It’s not off the ground yet, so I can’t even talk too much about it except that it’s a concept that we’re toying with.”
Asked whether he’s getting any takers among the celebrities he has approached, McCarthy said, “I’ve spoken to a number of `em and they’re all very interested.” Pressed to identify them, he said, “I’ll let you know when they agree. ... It’s not done. It’s a concept.”
Over the years, Chicago mayors and police superintendents have railed against the code of silence that has made victims and witnesses reluctant or afraid to cooperate with police.
The trust between police and residents was further damaged by police torture allegations against now-convicted former Area 2 Commander Jon Burge and by a drunken and now-fired off-duty police officer’s brutal beating of a barmaid captured on videotape.
On Tuesday, McCarthy acknowledged that the Police Department he inherited has “gotten black eyes recently based upon incidents that happened long before we got here. ... You name the scandal. They’re all coming to fruition now” with costly settlements paid by Chicago taxpayers.
“I can’t fix that. I can’t go back and change what happened with Jon Burge. What I can do is focus on the behavior of our officers today,” he said.
African-American aldermen whose constituents don’t trust the police said they’re willing to give the celebrity campaign a try.
But, they have their doubts about whether pro athletes and movie stars who live in a protective bubble will be able to break the code of silence.
“There’ll always be a no-snitch policy. Look back on history. Even look back in biblical times and people were told to not snitch or they went and told. Somebody’s gonna tell. Somebody’s not gonna tell,” said Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), a former Chicago Police officer.
“People don’t snitch because they’re scared for the retaliation that may come. ... When you use [a celebrity], people will make their own judgment calls. But, if it’s even one, two, three [or] five people who help us solve a crime and prevent future crimes, that will be helpful. Is Derrick the one? He may or may not be. Is that citizen still fearful [even though] Derrick says it? Yes, they will be.”
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said Rose and other celebrities could be most helpful when it comes to re-defining the “no-snitch” policy that has evolved from the code of silence.
“Snitching is if you and I commit a crime and then, you turn around and turn me in. That’s snitching. Witnessing a crime is not snitching,” Sawyer said.
“We need to use whatever ammunition we have available to counter this idea that being a good community representative is snitching. ... I’m not here to judge whether it’s a good idea or a bad idea. We need to take all ideas and do whatever’s necessary because I’m tired of seeing children shoot each other. I’m tired of seeing guns being purchased as easy as a loaf of bread.”
If Rose agrees to help break the code of silence, it won’t be the first time the Bulls have helped Chicago Police.
After the destructive celebration that followed the Bulls’ 1991 NBA Championship, then-head coach Phil Jackson and superstars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did public service announcements urging Chicagoans the following year to celebrate responsibly. It helped diminish the damage after the Bulls’ second straight NBA title.