Friday, November 6, 2015

Lake County lessons echo

     Lesson #1: The coroner takes the heat.
     That's his — or her — job.
     They not only have to examine dead bodies all day, a tough enough task, but then must share their findings, even when they contradict what powerful people wish were the truth.
     It's a lesson we've been taught before, but the jaw-dropping case of Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz reminds us again, a necessary lesson, because we keep forgetting. Nor is it the only lesson here.
     For those just tuning in: law enforcement in Lake County has been dealt a triple black eye.
     First, a corrupt cop stole money. If that weren't bad enough, he stole it from a fund set up to benefit kids, then considered murdering the official questioning his finances.
     Second, he killed himself and made it look like he was attacked by three assailants, sparking a manhunt, that briefly rounded up innocent suspects.
     Then the third, self-inflicted blow: Dr. Thomas Rudd, the Lake County coroner, examined the body, assessed the evidence, could not rule out suicide and was raked over the coals by Lake County law enforcement, loudly criticizing Rudd for "unprofessionalism." The commander of the Lake County Major Crime Task force said Rudd's findings put "the entire case at risk."
     Thank God he did.
     Before we in Chicago ride off on that high horse we've climbed up on, let's take a trip down memory lane, to 2009.
     This case should seem familiar.
     Two words: Michael Scott.
     Remember him?
     President of the Chicago School Board and pal of Mayor Richard M. Daley. He walked to the edge of the Chicago River, shot himself and tumbled in.
     The Cook County medical examiner at the time, Dr. Nancy Jones, examined the body, and said it looked like suicide, which enraged Daley, who denounced her as a publicity hound.
     "Her claim to fame, she has claim to fame — you know her name," squeaked the mayor. "That's why the Chicago Police Department has to do a thorough investigation, regardless of what the medical examiner says. They have to do a thorough investigation and come to the conclusion. He or she can say anything they want. But they have a responsibility to the family and society."
     A week later, the police department's thorough investigation said, umm, yeah, suicide.
     The mayor never apologized to Jones, and I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the Keystone cops in Lake County to apologize to Dr. Rudd.
     Apologies are overrated anyway. What we need are guidelines. We've reviewed one. This terrible case underlines two more that might help us grasp the next time this sort of thing happens, which it will:
     Lesson #2. Cops always circle the wagons. They support their own, until the last moment it can be plausibly be done and long beyond. Truth is an airy abstract of no interest. Justice is what happens when the case goes their way. Toward that end, they'll ignore the obvious, plant evidence, lie on the stand, whatever it takes to back each other up (and expend a good deal of bile lashing out at anyone rude enough to mention it; trust me here). The reason police violence is constantly in the news is because the abuses that police once casually committed and routinely covered up now can be posted online for all to see.
     Lesson #3. Nobody wants to believe a loved one committed suicide. Ever. Not without a note, and often not even then. After Scott killed himself, Chicago magazine ran an elaborate conspiracy theory explaining why he was done in by shadowy forces. This despite the fact that the Chicago police had video documenting Scott's last minutes. To the defense of grieving families, suicide seems such an negation of their love, such a rude gesture in their direction, they'll clutch at anything that suggests otherwise. And suicide can be a very rude gesture, make no mistake. Phil Pagano was the head of Metra. He knew, better than anybody, the trauma that Metra engineers suffer when people jump in front of trains. He knew that, and made eye contact with the engineer driving the train as he stepped onto the track in front of it.
     Neither of these three truths are pretty or pleasant, and the one about police is hard to take. Yes, cops can tell the truth, when convenient. But when it comes to other cops, well, let's put it this way: remember that time a Chicago cop faced the wrath of his fellow officers to expose a dirty cop? Me neither.


  1. That crook & bigamist Pagano set off an epidemic of suicide by Metra that has yet to end, more that five & a half years later.

    And why did they dye the water blue at the Daley Center fountain?

    1. Celebrating the Cubs play off run is why the water at Daley Plaza was dyed blue.

  2. Well the water looks nice, at any rate.

    Glad you decided to do this topic, Mr. S. Was waiting to hear your opinion. Had forgotten about that beast Daley and the coroner. Had no idea this cop was trying to kill some official too or considered it.

    Keystone cops indeed and the Vanecko case says it all about some cops and Daley.

    Some cops want to do good but must shut their mouths.

    I wondered why the cops wife didn't leave such a pig, but their wives probably fear doing so. Drew Peterson anyone? More than one cops wife has entered abuse with no recourse. So true about cops sticking together and in this case another sign of crooked cops.

    However, when it comes to gangbangers who claim innocence or racism while trying to shoot cops or commit crimes- I might have to agree with the cops.

    Anyway, good topic.

  3. Great stuff, Neil.

    Whatever you do, don't go over the speed limit, be sure to come to complete stops and even if a bee gets in your mouth, don't spit on the sidewalk.

    Doug D.

  4. Thanks for taking that one on head on Neil. I can only imagine the asinine responses you're going to get.

  5. Thanks for taking that one on head on Neil. I can only imagine the asinine responses you're going to get.

  6. So many people in Fox Lake are still calling foul, in spite of the facts that get more horrendous every day. We just don't expect the Chicago level of depravity up here in Lake County. Wake up folks, it exists everywhere.

  7. Chicago cops cry foul on the code of silence in gang neighborhoods, but how are they any different?

    The Fox Lake debacle is getting worse following the Tribune's Sunday takedown of Waukegan's police force and their record of wrongful arrests, abuse and other transgressions. Lake County is fast becoming the leader in the miscarriage of justice.

  8. All true about the cops circling the wagons, but it seems the press was a tad complicit too. We're now learning the guy was a drunk and a tit grabber as well as a crook. A lot of people must have known that the heroic "G.I. Joe" had feet of clay, but I don't recall any skepticism being expressed in the press. Or a strong defense of the Coroner. What happened to the old maxim "If your mother swears its true, check it out."

    I seem to remember some former cop suggesting suicide at the outset and being excoriated for it. Somebody should contact that guy and find out what he really knew.

    Tom Evans

    1. So true, the press did the jumping to conclusions and glorified the storyline.

    2. Glad to see this column was in the paper today, along with other coverage of this topic.

    3. Not for the sake of correcting you, Tom, but just because it's funnier in the original, it's "If your mother says she loves you, check out out."

    4. I don't mind standing corrected. And you're right. The original is funnier.

      Lest people think my comment unfairly tarnished the gentlemen of the press, I do recognize that exposing feet of clay can be an arduous business, and sometimes hazardous to reputations. A funny example of the difficulty is in James Thurber's short story "The Greatest Man in the World."


    5. Yes, look what happened to Dan Rather when he exposed certain Bush matters.

      Or what almost happened to Woodward and Bernstein.

    6. Nice to see Thurber references. One of his finest, least recognized stories, a parody of Lindbergh.

  9. What I'd like to know, and what I don't think has been made public, is how much money are we talking about here. While I can't think it would be all that much money, there are tales of little league and band treasurers making out with a nice bundle. Then again, Rita Cromwell did alright for herself.

    Something just tells me that this guy was going nuts over nickel/dime stuff.

    1. I think there was $50,000 in the fund, not that he took it all. You are right. I kept hearing Marge Gundersson's words. "All for a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little bit of money, don't ya know?"

    2. I think there was $50,000 in the fund, not that he took it all. You are right. I kept hearing Marge Gundersson's words. "All for a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little bit of money, don't ya know?"

    3. Yes, and I suppose the guy thought he could save his reputation (and the complicity of his wife and son) by killing himself, whereas it made the whole situation ten times worse for everybody. That's a lesson too, I guess.


    4. Where's Jakash?

    5. I believe it was first stated the amount he embezzled was in the "five-figures" over the course of seven years, later reported to be to the tune of $50,000...relative chump-change to be sure, but if discovered, what did he stand to lose? His job, reputation, pension, prospects, perhaps even his freedom for a period of time...this was such a great column, hoping it is revisited soon so that you can continue to put into succinct words the thoughts that have been swirling in my head concerning this outrageous and ultimately sordid dream article? Something that goes after these nincompoops who now cry "Inside job!! Conspiracy!! Cover-up!!" Most likely the same crowd that lionized the Thin Blue Line in its entirety only weeks before, now they are all dirty cops who silenced the one good cop...

  10. Regarding that poor corrupt slob Pagano making eye contact with the engineer as the train was about to crush him: Engineers say that's very common with suicides by train. It's like they want that last instant of human contact.

  11. Insightful column given the topic and I'm sure more details to come involving those who covered for him. Shouldn't here be a code of conduct for police officers in a any town small or large that we the public/taxpayer should be aware of given we ultimately pay the salaries? This guy would have been fired for his transgressions in the private sector and just kept sailing along here with no consequences to his behavior, let alone as an officer. Also, where was the press uncovering the true reality of this situation?

  12. And what private sector would that be? Not the one I'm familiar with. In a tight labor market employers tend to overlook transgressions by valued employees.


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