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Editorial: Say no to cops-lite

MustaphFarrakhan from summer 2012

Mustapha Farrakhan from the summer of 2012

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Updated: May 24, 2013 6:15AM

Police can function only if they are trusted and respected. If someone who is not a real police officer carries a badge, it undermines cops everywhere.

That’s why a Monday Sun-Times story by reporter Kim Janssen was so dismaying. It told how in the south suburb of Harvey, Mustapha Farrakhan, son of Minister Louis Farrakhan, has a police badge and drives an unmarked Harvey Police squad car — complete with flashing lights — though records show he hasn’t worked a single shift in more than four years. The city isn’t saying whether he’s made an arrest during that time.

Seventeen years ago, the state Legislature tightened up training requirements to discourage police departments from handing out badges good anywhere in the state to politically connected people — and calling them part-time officers. What’s going on in Harvey suggests it’s time to review that law and close any additional loopholes. The state has 1,100 local police agencies that employ about 38,000 officers, and even if only a few are handing out unwarranted badges, it’s a big problem.

Strict regulations are necessary because a police badge is such a desirable credential, especially if you don’t have to do all that difficult work of subduing unpleasant suspects or driving the night patrol. The badge authorizes you to carry a concealed firearm in places regular citizens can’t. You can arrest people. You can even flash your badge to get out of a traffic ticket.

Harvey Police Chief Denard Eaves issued a statement describing Farrakhan as a “volunteer” police officer who assists with community relations, though Farrakhan lives a half hour south in Crete. How many other “volunteer” police officers are out there?

Harvey is a financially strapped town. We suspect local residents aren’t exactly thrilled about shelling out for a police car for someone who is not protecting them.

We don’t want go back to an era when the Cook County sheriff, for example, passed out badges to platoons of dubious part-time deputies, most of whom just wanted to get out of paying the cover at Rush Street bars. We’re glad those days are over, and we don’t want them back.

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