All good relationships are based on trust. Sadly, citizens of Chicago have come to mistrust the police who are supposed to serve and protect them - and the system that lets bad cops literally get away with murder. The reopening of Officer John Ardelean's car crash case might be a small step toward rebuilding some of that trust.
As I wrote in the column "Colorblind Killings" last May, Officer John Ardelean killed Miguel Flores, 22, and Erick Lagunas, 21, with his car after an alcohol-laced high speed chase on the city's North side, then went into cover-your-ass mode and refused to take a field sobriety test until almost eight hours later when his supervisor finally insisted.
The tragedy smelled not of some anti-Latino bias but more of the CPD brotherhood's "we protect our own" policy that seems to permeate every single one of the many, many highly-publicized police brutality incidents that marked 2007.
Six-months after starting a crusade for justice, retired Cook County Judge Raymond A. Figueroa got a little closer to giving voice to the dark-skinned victims of police misbehavior who, lacking busty, blond photogenic appeal, seem to always get forgotten in the mainstream media.
On Friday First Assistant State's Attorney Bob Milan forced open John Ardelean's felony DUI case, which had been shelved for lack of evidence, when he introduced a tape that a TV station aired showing Ardelean, 34, getting a drink poured down his mouth and grabbing a beer before walking out the door of a bar - presumably immediately before getting into the Dodge Durango that slammed into Flores and Lagunas' Pontiac Grand Am killing both - according to the Chicago Tribune's story.
Back in February, nearly three months after the Officer had gone about his business while two families mourned the death of their young loved ones, Judge Figueroa toiled away to cast a light on the incident that had been covered by Chicago's media with the ferocity of a kitten stuck in a tree. At the time I felt the coverage was in undeniable stark contrast to the case of the cop who'd been caught on tape beating up the pretty blond bartender the previous summer.
But through it all Figueroa has had Justice's blindfold on, arguing that the case be reopened based on the kid-glove treatment Ardelean got from all involved, and the bumbling efforts from the very people responsible for protecting the victims. Charging obstruction of justice, prosecutorial misconduct, and perjury, Figueroa was on fire about witnesses who hadn't been called to testify, irregularities in police officers' treatment as they testified on Ardelean's behalf, and a general disinterest by all parties to uncover the truth of what happened that Thanksgiving night.
This videotape's potential to show yet another policeman behaving badly offers a unique opportunity. You see, most regular, law-abiding people toil under the impression that if you don't break the law, you don't get messed with. They have no way of understanding that the justice system in this city and in this country has two tracks: one for the affluent and one for everyone else that gets more awful depending on how dark your skin is.
Uncovering yet another tacit approval of police misbehavior by the Chicago Police Department that resulted in the deaths of two people who were more-or-less assumed to have been "probably up to no good anyway," as I've heard many say, get us closer to making sure this sort of thing doesn't happen - and get swept under the rug - again.
That Chicagoans have little trust in the Chicago Police Department because of the bad actions of a tiny, tiny part of the force isn't fair, either, of course, but fear is not logical.
Right now the CPD is continuing an internal investigation though no charges are pending against Ardelean - yet. But reopening the case puts things back on track towards finally getting it right.
At a press conference last February, Judge Figueroa spoke passionately on behalf of those who so often get forgotten. Of the fiasco, he asked that "governmental bodies protect us and investigate the involved entities for misconduct" after remarking "the victims, their families and the community deserve better."
Yes, black, white, brown, our whole community deserves better.