Former top cop LeRoy Martin remembered for being hard worker
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN Staff Reporter September 6, 2013 7:50PM
The hat of former Chicago Police Department superintendent LeRoy Martin sits on top of the open casket. LeRoy Martin passed away Saturday, August 31st. Viewing was held at Harvey Memorial Community Church, Friday, September 6th, 2013, in Chicago. | Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 8, 2013 6:11AM
He was a cop’s cop.
He was a stickler for a proper policeman’s uniform.
And he was a hard worker.
That’s how many retired cops, politicians and relatives remembered former Chicago Police Supt. LeRoy Martin, 84, at a Friday visitation. Martin, who died Aug. 31, wore his dress blues — his policeman’s cap was set atop his casket and a Chicago flag was placed next to him.
The wake was a gathering for dozens of old school Chicago figures — among them was Larry Williams, a retired Chicago cop.
“He was a policeman’s policeman,” the 74-year-old Bronzeville resident said of Martin. “His main goal was to curtail crime.”
Williams, and scores of others who worked for Martin, said Martin didn’t “allow a sloppy demeanor” and made sure officers wore their uniforms properly.
“You gotta look like the police to be the police,” was part of the reasoning said retired officer Henry Stanton, 66, of Beverly.
Current police First Deputy Alfonza Wysinger said Martin’s demands have stuck with him.
“To this day ... I do not get out my car without checking [that] my hat is on,” Wysinger said after leaving the wake at Harvey Memorial Community Church on the city’s South Side.
Before joining the police force, Martin worked for the CTA as a streetcar driver. It was on his route that he saw a woman he’d met at a wedding. That woman, Constance, became his bride in 1954, said one of Martin’s sons, Cook County Circuit Court Judge LeRoy Martin Jr., 53.
The next year the elder Martin joined the department as a patrolman in the traffic division, said his son, Ronald Martin, 63. He rose through the ranks. And when Fred Rice, the city’s first black police superintendent retired, Martin sought his job. Martin told then Mayor Harold Washington he would work harder than anyone else, said Martin’s close friend, former Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, adding that he told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter in 1987 of the impending appointment. Martin got the job but a few weeks later Washington died.
Though many remembered Martin’s leadership fondly — he backed his officers, former cops said — Martin headed the department during the period that Area 2 detectives under the supervision of now-imprisoned former Police Cmdr. Jon Burge allegedly tortured crime suspects to get confessions. Martin, at one point, also had been Burge’s boss as commander of Area 2.
While superintendent, he received a report from department’s Office of Professional Standards that found crime suspects were “systematically” brutalized at Area 2 detective headquarters under Burge for a dozen years — a report Martin dismissed. He also dismissed the OPS finding that certain Area 2 commanders were aware of the abuse. Martin was accused by an attorney for police-torture victims of having “sat on” the report for 15 months, but ultimately he ordered hearings that resulted in Burge’s dismissal in 1993.
The year before that, 1992, Martin retired from the department. He eventually went to work for the Cook County medical examiner’s office, where he was chief of investigations.
In 1998, Martin, a Republican, mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan.
Until the end, Martin, “a true Chicagoan” and “son of the West Side” loved his city, his sons said.
To that end, the father of three and grandfather of three will be buried at Oak Woods Cemetery on the city’s South Side close to where Harold Washington was laid to rest.
Before the burial, a visitation is scheduled Saturday at 9:30 a.m. with a funeral to follow at House of Hope, 752 E. 114th.