Last month, I wrote about a rough experience I had-an attempted carjacking. I picked up three 10- and 11-year-old boys late one night when they asked for a ride home. It was a scam.
They led me on a wild ride through the Austin neighborhood. Three other boys showed up at our final stop, I took a beating and I was lucky to escape with my life.
Still, when I drove away, I was sure one of the boys was hurt. And when I called 911 and then later talked to a Chicago Police officer, I was treated to the harsh reality that not only was I stupid-OK, I deserved that-but that no one cared about these kids. That is not OK, no child deserves that. The kids, I was told by the officer, were animals and deserved whatever they got.
He was not concerned about finding these kids to make sure they were OK, or to make sure they were prosecuted, something I would have done.
It horrified me that these children could be so easily dismissed. They were not worthy of attention. Clearly, they were not getting any attention from their parents, so what did that mean for their future? I found that more upsetting than the carjacking.
My point was that if adults don't care about our children-and yes, I believe all children are our children-then who will?
I received a number of calls and letters from readers who wanted to tell me what they thought.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to write or call. Whether we agree with one another or not, you felt strongly enough to tell me what you thought and that is important.
Some of the letters were very sympathetic to the whole situation. Your kind words were tonic.
And I also received a number of letters from people who thought I was way off. Why would I risk my children living without a mother on these kids?
Some observed that I got what I deserved and perhaps, if justice were to be served, I deserved something much more harsh, a la to be culled from the pack for stupidity, selected out in the Darwinian process of evolution.
The worst note I received came from someone who identified himself as a retired Chicago Police officer. He told me that while I was probably a compassionate person, I was really stupid and if I wanted to find out what cops really thought I should visit: http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com
I did. That's me on the July 13, 2006 entry, titled the "World's Stupidest Human Being." (Personally, I think I could easily rank up there for doing stupid stuff-although my guess is I don't deserve top honors. But I was OK with that. I've been called far worse.)
I don't care that cops have a place to blow off steam about the frustrations of their job. Everyone needs that. But this blog is disturbing.
One of the comments about my column reads: "When you look at a gaping bullet wound in one of these angel's little heads and smile...that's when you realize you're a COP."
There are 96 comments responding to the blog entry about my column and some of them take me to task for being a tree-hugging liberal and all sorts of other names that aren't fit to print here. But some of them riff on such racist and vitriolic statements that I am going to choose to believe that these people are talking trash rather than truth.
I won't believe what the entries on this blog reflect-that the men and women who are cops don't take seriously their oath to serve and protect. I can't believe they select who they are going to serve and decide who they are not going to protect.
I guess reading the blog adds fuel to the idea that the recently released report outlining the systematic torture of suspects under the watchful eye of Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge is not just a fluke. It's a department standard.
I don't buy that. All cops are not racist. I would never paint all the people in Austin with one broad brush based on what happened that night. Nor would I paint all cops with one broad brush either. The cops I know are amazing men and women. Perhaps that's why the way I was treated on that carjacking night and the way those kids were treated-no one even wanted to find or prosecute them-seemed so off.
I just wonder what these people spewing on that blog think they are doing? How can anyone think it is right to be peddling vitriol and racism? What are people supposed to believe after reading this stuff?
I asked Craig Futterman, clinical professor of law at the University of Chicago, who heads the Civil Rights and Police Accountability project, to read the site and tell me what he thought. I'll give him the last word.
"It's frightening," Futterman says. "You can't ignore the real racism that exists in society or on the police force. The moment we start labeling our children as animals or juvenile predators, instead of children, we have a real serious problem.
"But the moment we choose to disreguard them completely and label them as someone worth killing, as that posting suggests, we give up on our future."