Monday, December 19, 2016

Horrors of the Holocaust help teach ethics to Chicago police recruits


     The morning began with bagels, coffee and activities — stand up if you've volunteered, that sort of thing. Then speaker Kelley Szany, director of education at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, drew the attention of 113 Chicago Police Department recruits to a large pad of paper at each table and asked them to draw a line down the middle and make a chart.
     "Left side, how you see yourselves as officers," she said. "Right side, how you think others see you."
     That took five minutes. Then she went around the room, asking one recruit from each table to stand and read what they had written.
     Cops see themselves as professional, fair, heroes, leaders, brave, respectful, loyal, sharp-looking, dedicated, motivated, honorable, helpful, caring, comical, authoritative, among other qualities.
     The public, however, sees them as aggressive, unfair, rude, selfish, power-hungry, robotic, corrupt, biased, lazy, bullies, violent, drunks, racist, killers, overweight . . . plus a few positives qualities, like courageous and trustworthy.
     It seemed an odd exercise, here at the Holocaust Museum in Skokie, a summer camp icebreaker, particularly when they were urged to "please use your police voices." Something soon forgotten in the grim journey the officers-to-be, all in their 20s and 30s, were about to take....

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Holocaust survivor Aaron Elster shares his experience with Chicago Police recruits.

13 comments:

  1. While no one is suggesting the cops are always perfect, it hardly seems apt for the ethics department to compare Chicago cops to Nazis in the Holocaust era. Were the Jews shooting at the uniformed authorities, committing crimes,involved in drug gangs and shooting kids too? Didn't think so.

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  2. Furthermore,Mr. Elster is also trivializing himself and other Holocaust survivors, if he thinks thugs are in the same category as the Jews were or had similar experiences. It's an insult to Jews, actually.

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    1. You're looking at this from the wrong end. The question is not whether the people whom the police in Chicago confront are like European Jews. The question is whether, and to what extent, modern police officers would be willing to carry out atrocities if ordered to by higher authorities, or even peers.

      Also, it's insulting and borderline racist to assume that all people abused by Chicago police are "thugs."

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    2. For a frequent reader, Woodman is showing a worrisome failure to grasp what the story about. The point isn't at all that cops are like Nazi goons. The point is that they have the opportunity to do good, or ill, in their official capacity, and need to go by their own interior moral compass, and sometimes not be swayed either by official directives or peer pressure. It's fairly plain. Woodman would do well to pause from complaining, take a breath, and look within.

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  3. I don't suppose all the recruits will carry away with them the lesson imparted by the Holocaust director Kelly Szany or that it will survive the nitty gritty of everyday police experience in very many, but it is possible that some one of these new police officers when confronted with an event about to turn violent will remember that lesson and act accordingly. I think those who spoke to Neil and those who discussed the issues seriously with their colleagues are more likely to have committed the lesson to memory and to be inclined to act with decency and respect even when the circumstances seem to dictate authoritarian harshness and disregard for the rights that even a criminal retains.

    john

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  4. Great column. Thank you for this.

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  5. Len Deighton wrote a quite good dystopian novel titled SB-GB; set in post WW II England. the Germans have won and his Scotland Yard detective must go on solving crimes under the supervision of the Gestapo. Moral conflicts arise since his masters have different views about the definition of crime, due process and punishment.

    Chicago cops seem less at hazard from being asked to enforce illegal orders than from tribal pressure to keep bad things quiet. Perhaps they should be administered the West Point honor code: "I will not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do."

    Tom Evans

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  6. Nothing will change Chicago cops until they stop hiring graduates of the crappy Chicago Public Schools!
    There was for a short time a requirement that they have a four year college degree, but that was dropped to a two year degree under pressure from the black aldermen, all of whom are crooks, just like all the rest of the aldermen.

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    1. chicago schools are crappy overall but have 3 of the states 5 best high schools . black alderman? how do they differ from any other alderman? and what power do they have? very little from what i read. why do municipalities with no black alderman not require a 4 year degree? what does someone being black have to do with anything? how exactly would higher education reduce the issues discussed in nails piece?

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    2. The black aldermen have the mistaken idea that requiring a four year degree discriminates against black applicants.
      As to why others don't require a four year degree, they don't have the amount of crime or the social problems Chicago has!

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  7. I see the police devolving when they get into an "us v. them" mentality. This is how the code of silence evolved. The lessons of the Holocaust may or may not be useful here. They appreciate the horror of targeting fellow countrymen, but still find ways to excuse their own malicious behavior as a necessary defense and protectiveness of fellow officers.

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    1. The "us v. them" mentality is the point of the wedge those in power would use to turn the police against the citizens, this class appears to be an attempt to blunt that point.
      What (pleasantly) surprises me is that CPD would actually do something like this.

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  8. Clark, you make an interesting point.

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