Weis Resurrects Tainted SOS

Weis adding to reformed elite force

When former FBI agent Jody Weis was brought to Chicago to ostensibly clean up a scandal-plagued police department, one of the biggest scandals was the Special Operations Section, an elite unit that Mayor Daley himself disbanded after seven of its officers were charged with robbery and kidnapping.

One SOS officer allegedly tried to hire a hit man to take out a colleague cooperating with investigators.

Elite units such as SOS that are typically staffed with aggressive officers given the freedom to make the entire city their jurisdiction with less supervision than traditional units have long been the source of scandal in departments across the country. At least four members of the unit, for example, accumulated more than 50 citizen complaints over five years.

And yet, facing pressure from rising crime rates, Daley and Weis re-established the Special Operations Section last fall, albeit under the new name Mobile Strike Force - even thought Weis said at the time that criminology research showed that the economy had more effect on crime trends than police strategies.

Now Weis is adding even more officers - 50! - to the Mobile Strike Force. And he's changed his tune.

"Weis says they can take credit for the 20 percent drop in Chicago's murder rate this year because of what they do when they're informed of a homicide," WBEZ reports.

Let's just say that's a highly debatable proposition.

Given the events of Weis's tenure, it's hard not to see this move as another sop to skeptical officers the new chief has been trying to win over - from making a show of (temporarily) ignoring a federal judge to "protect" officers who could be exposed as thugs to ordering a fleet of hardly-green SUVs during tough budget times and arming officers with high-powered military assault rifles.

But Weis's first responsibility is to the citizens of Chicago, not to his internal public relations. Are these moves making us safer? Or just making some officers happier?

Steve Rhodes worked the police beat in several states early in his career and now is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review. You can subscribe to his NBC RSS feed here.

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