Pubdate: Tue, 16 May 2000
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Copyright: 2000 The Sun-Times Co.
Contact:  401 N. Wabash, Chicago IL 60611
Author: Mary Mitchell Sun-Times Columnist
Note: the author may be contacted at CORRUPTION TAGS US WITH DESPAIR

Having been on the front lines of the battle against gangs and drug 
dealing, I'm not surprised that federal prosecutors are investigating 
police corruption in Bellwood and Maywood.

For more than a year, my neighbors and I have wondered why our efforts to 
get rid of the gang- and drug-related activity on our block have been in 
vain. Instead of getting rid of criminal activities, we've watched "for 
sale" signs pop up as law-abiding citizens look for a way out.

Obviously, there are more honest police officers on the street than there 
are corrupt ones, but in a program requiring citizen participation, all it 
takes is one crooked cop to destroy a valuable program and a community's 

Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported on Sunday that federal 
prosecutors are investigating police officers in Bellwood and Maywood.

A Maywood police source confirmed that police officers assigned to the 
federally funded "Weed and Seed" program serving Bellwood and Maywood are 
under investigation.

The program's strategy is to weed out the criminals and bring in social 
services to help prevent gang- and drug-related activities and violent crimes.

It makes sense that, at least in Maywood, a corrupt cop or two may have 
given dealers protection.

Despite consistent community activism, my neighbors keep having to paint 
over the same graffiti-scarred stop signs and garages, and the illegal 
activity keeps coming back to the same corners.

When you think about it, this kind of corruption could explain why it is so 
difficult to rid communities of drug activity.

"These cops got caught up," said a Maywood police officer who asked for 
anonymity. "It started out with a cop in Bellwood who was allegedly taking 
money from drug dealers. Supposedly, the FBI has the one officer on tape 
talking about he was going to kill another officer and his family. So this 
is big time."

Yes, it is big time for a lot of reasons.

It's just one more thing that strains the relationship between police 
officers and citizens.

We call the Maywood Police Department consistently to report suspicious 
cars, gang loitering and suspected drug deals. We point out the homes where 
gang members gather, write down their license plate numbers, and have even 
marched through the streets at night chanting "No more gangs. No more drugs."

Still, last Friday our property values tumbled faster than the tech stocks 
did a couple of weeks ago as gang members left their calling card on 
traffic signs and garages.

"It is frustrating that the drug dealers know police are coming before you 
can put the phone back on the hook. They disperse and come right back," 
said Delores Rolle, a neighbor who organized a group of homeowners to fight 

"We give police specific information. We give them descriptions of the 
cars, license plate numbers, and tell them where the criminals are at. We 
did everything but put handcuffs on them and arrest them ourselves."

Looking out my window, I couldn't help but feel the anger well up inside. 
We can talk about racism and classism, but it is hopelessness that destroys 

Everyone, regardless of economic status, has a right to live in a safe 

But what really galls me about police corruption, particularly when police 
officers protect drug dealers, is that taxpayers are being ripped off in a 
couple of different ways.

We not only have paid the salaries of these corrupt individuals, but 
because of their help, drug dealers and gang members often succeed in 
forcing law-abiding citizens to flee, even if they lose money on the sale 
of their homes.

Maywood, of course, is not alone in possibly facing a police scandal. 
Corruption uncovered in police departments in Los Angeles and Philadelphia 
has taken the same toll on neighborhoods.

I don't think throwing cops convicted of corruption in prison is punishment 
enough. Really, if anyone ought to be made to pay restitution, it should be 
crooked police officers whose actions help destroy communities.
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