Where's the Respect for Authority?

Officers, Mayor agree: it's not just about feet on the street

By Alex Perez and BJ Lutz
|  Monday, Jul 19, 2010  |  Updated 11:45 PM CDT
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The deaths of three police officers in the last two months has many people -- including existing officers -- wondering what's happening to the city and what can be done to calm the violence.

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The deaths of three police officers in the last two months has many people -- including existing officers -- wondering what's happening to the city and what can be done to calm the violence.

"It's moments like these when it hits home," one officer who requested anonymity said in an interview Monday evening. "That could be you."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has joined in the search for the men who shot and killed Officer Michael Bailey early Sunday morning.

Bailey was off duty at the time of the shooting and had just finished a shift guarding Mayor Richard Daley's home over night. While still in uniform, he was approached by at least two men who tried to steal his Buick. Shots were exchanged and the men fled the scene.

Earlier this month, Officer Thor Soderberg was in the parking lot of a police building when he was gunned down.

It leaves many wondering: Where is the respect for authority?

"I think there's been so much negative light on the Chicago Police Department that it's become common for someone to say, 'Yeah, he did wrong to me.' And for people to take his word and say, 'Well, yeah, they're all bad,'" the officer interviewed Monday said.

He adds that the negative perception of officers is one of the main problems it makes it tough for a good officer to do his or her job.

"The fact that everyone thinks we're the bad guys empowers the bad guys," he said.

Chicago is supposed to have about 13,500 police officers, but currently only has about 12,700, leaving the city about 800 short. And while the mayor is planning to hire 100 more officers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, at least some cops still don't think it's enough.

"The people are not seeing the police officer working that beat [and] going around, They're going to think, 'Well, the police are not here. Let's do what we want to do," the anonymous officer said.

But Mayor Richard Daley said Monday that better education, better families and personal responsibility will help turn the tide, not necessarily of Chicago's finest on the streets.

"People have to take ownership of their family. No one else can do it," Daley said at a bill-signing ceremony Monday in Cole Park, where Officer Thomas Wortham had spent a great deal of time and energy improving before he was shot and killed on May 19. Police say his killers were trying to steal his motorcycle.

"We cannot continue to raise a generation of kids who grow up and think that they can kill people at will," said his father, Thomas Wortham III.

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