Judging Jody Weis

Police superintendent one year into job

One year into one of the most challenging jobs in the city, Police Superintendent Jody Weis is fully aware of where his report card comes from: the citizens.

"We're judged, really, 'Do people feal safe? Is crime down? Is disorder down? Do people feel safe in their homes?'" Weis said recently. 

But local headlines last year didn't paint a very safe picture. Nationwide, crime was down. In Chicago, it was up, leading that nation with 510 homicides.

"We're not satisfied with it. There's only one acceptable number for homicides, which is zero." Weis said.

Weis said one of the biggest problems is gangs, and his message is clear:

"If you don't associate with gangs, if you're not in a gang, your chances of becoming a victim of violence relatively small in the city," Weis said. "This really is a safe city."

Look behind the headlines and you'll find a man who painstakingly analyzes crime data, and Weis says that if you remove "gang-related" from the homicide count, you'll get a very different number.

"It's about 50 percent gang-related," Weis said candidly. "I think it's safe to say that when you learn the motive, that number is going to go up to more to like 75 and 80 percent."

To get there, Weis is declaring an all-out war on gangs, starting a citywide unit called the Mobile Strike Force, which has already posted dramatic results, reducing homicides in high-crime areas. And crime is down, citywide, in nearly every category, from January of last year.

The Mobile Strike Force replaces another unit Weis shut down last year, the Special Operations Section, under a cloud of officer misconduct.

"We talk a lot about the law enforcement family. And it truly is. But in reality it's also a team, and in my mind, the difference between a team and a family is that teammates hold each other accountable," he said.

Indeed, the former FBI agent inherited a police department that was short on accountability and long on image problems. At the time he took over, one of the CPD's most famous faces was Anthony Abbate, an off-duty, 250 pound officer allegedly shown beating a female bartender in video seen around the world.

There were also a history of forced confessions and police brutality; images that weren't easily forgotten.

"We have decades of mistrust and fear in some of our communities towards the police. And I don't know why it got like that. You'd have to go back in history. I just try to look forward," Weis said.

Weis is trying to build a department deserving of public trust without losing the trust of his officers.

"No one's expecting police officers to be right every time. We just don't. We want them to be reasonable," Weis explained. "There will be times when they have to, quote, "break the rules," but they're doing it based upon reasonable conditions that's probably going to save someone's life."

Looking back, Weis calls 2008 "the year of transition," and he said 2009 is the "year of results."

Without question, he says his single top priority is not to see a single officer die in the line of duty.

"We had gone several years without an officer being killed," Weis said. "We lost four officers this year. That's tough."

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