UPDATED 03/23/11 6:22 a.m.
CHICAGO (CBS 2) – Two Chicago police officers are off the street – temporarily relieved of police powers because of a home video of them was posted on the web.
Critics say the video shows the officers in a bad light, watching while a group of onlookers taunts and curses at a teen being held in police custody. The video is so clear, you can see the license plate number on the police SUV. The video allegedly shows police in Humboldt Park, leaving the doors to their vehicle open and exposing the teen inside to insults from an unruly crowd. At one point, one of the officers appears to tell a person recording video to, “Get a closeup.”
Max Cerda runs a teen outreach group called Latino Cultural Change Coalition. He watched the video and says the officers’ action and inaction were unprofessional.
“It’s unfortunate that stuff like that still happens,” Cerda said.
He’s a former gang member who says he’s seen police use situations like the one in the video. Cerda says on a few occasions when he was young, police took him to rival gang territory and forced him out of the vehicle.
“They took me to the so-called opposition’s neighborhood and yelled in the horn, yeah we got dude in this neighborhood. And they thought it was funny,” Cerda said, “they threatened me if I didn’t get out.”
WBEZ-Chicago Public Radio discovered the video on YouTube over the weekend. On the radio station Wednesday, Robert Wildeboer, the station’s criminal justice reporter, weighed in on the situation, and the incident of picking up suspected gang members and dropping them off in rival territory.
On the WBEZ program “848,” Wildeboer said the impression might be that police are trying to teach young gang members a lesson about the consequences of their lifestyle and the dangers they will face. But he said a police officer told him this is not really the purpose.
Rather, Wildeboer said on the radio station, a police officer told him the tactic is “usually about the police punishing someone that isn’t cooperating; someone’s giving them lip, and they want to say, ‘OK, you want to be a tough guy? Fine, we’ll bring you over here into this gang territory and you can find your way home. Good luck with that.”
Chicago Police say their Internal Affairs unit is investigating the video and the officers involved. The department issued a statement:
“In this incident, Department members reportedly demonstrated unbecoming conduct while an individual was in a Department vehicle. The internal investigation into this allegation remains ongoing. The conduct that is alleged does not reflect the behavior and core values of the men and women of the Chicago Police Department nor our commitment to serve the community in a professional manner. The Chicago Police Department stands for professionalism and the highest standards of police service.”
The video has been removed from YouTube and Facebook. It still appears on WBEZ’s Web site.