Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Thugs Next Door: The 5th District Chronicals
I have written here, on more than few occasions, about the difficulties with my neighbors, the 5th District Police Headquarters. I have complained about the off duty cops driving the wrong way up a one way street, and about the noise factor as they party in the parking lot, whenever they change shifts or whatever it is that makes them come outside and blast the stereos. I have talked to them personally and pleaded for understanding and neighborly behavior, all to no avail. Today, about 6pm, two officers hung out by their cruiser, making noises that resembled video game gun shots, through their patrol car’s PA system. It was so loud it rattled my windows. That lovely experience of a nice Fall day, and open windows, was crushed as they began to blast Bad Boys, the theme from the TV show COPS, at ear splitting volume. I was out side on my balcony, and during a brief break in the music, I shouted for their attention. “Is that really necessary?” I yelled. The officer outside the car looked directly at me, and pulled out his hand gun. He removed the clip, and set it on the hood of the cruiser. Then he checked the barrel for a round ( I guess there was none) and, still staring at me, began to pull back the slide and pull the trigger, releasing it, over and over, to the music. I find this to be disturbing and threatening behavior. I wrote the following eamil to 5th Dsitrict Commander Bernadette Kelly, with a CC: to Arnie Fielkow, Jackie Clarkson and James Carter. Commander Kelly has responded with concern and promised an effort to get to the bottom of things. Mr. Filekow has responded, saying that if true, these events can not be allowed to stand. The officer in question knows exactly who I am, what I look like and where I live. I am not kidding when I say I fear for my safety. An on duty police officer who will brandish his weapon, even empty, in response to a noise complaint (what the hell were they doing that for, anyway?) might become much more dangerous, say after dark and a weeks’ suspension. Should I turn up with a toe tag, I want somebody out there to know why. My email follows: Dear Commander Kelly; (firstname.lastname@example.org) My name is David, and we’ve met at many of the Nonpac meetings at your station house. I live across the parking lot from you, as do several other tenants in the building. I was one of many who were more than happy to see the 5th District relocate to the Universal Building. Unfortunately, some issues have gotten out of hand. I have asked many times, over the phone and at meetings there, that the officers in the parking lot be aware that there are a dozen or so tenants with doors and windows facing that lot. Yet the noise level, at all hours mind you, has only gotten worse. From ‘testing’ sirens at 2am to the blasting of car stereos at 11:30 pm. They have actually backed the car in to the corner and opened the trunk, to make it louder, like they were tailgating at a game. Today, at about 5:45 pm, two officers were using the car PA system to make ’shooting’ noises, and blast the theme from ‘COPS” ( bad boys) over the PA system. During a break in the noise, I asked them if it was really necessary. The officer already out of the car, looked at me, and then the music came back on., He then took out his pistol, pulled the clip, and set it on the hood, then pulling back the slide and releasing it over and over to the Theme Song. What is that supposed to mean? Is it a threat? Are they just playing cop and playing with their guns to amuse themselves? Is it necessary to do this at such loud volumes? Are we, as neighbors to be ignored by gun waving people with blasting car stereos? How is this different than the public nuisance they are supposed to be controlling? Who does one call when the loud, armed, delinquent neighbors ARE the police? There is also the issue of the one way Street I live on. Spain Street runs towards the river from St Claude Avenue. Yet cars come out of the 5th District lot entrance on Spain, and head the wrong way on to St Claude, many times a day. In the beginning, it seemed to be patrol cars in hurry to get somewhere. Then it became a common occurrence. Now, officers do this when out of uniform and in their private vehicles, coming and going. This happens off and on around the clock. I have had to screech to a halt when entering Spain Street from St Claude, because a private vehicle was coming the wrong way, and fast. This happens with alrming frequency. Two days ago, one patrol car was on the way out, and one on the way in, when they stopped, driver’s window to driver’s window, and completely blocked the intersection for over five minutes. I could not hear the conversation, but I did hear intermittent laughter, as if jokes were being told. Were any of the neighbors to behave in such a manner, we would certainly be ticketed or arrested. Yet this goes on unchecked, and is getting worse. I mentioned it to you, and to Lt Rattler on more then one occasion, going back over six months. Lt. Rattler discussed putting an end to this behavior when he attended our anticrime meeting, just after Wendy Byrne was shot, last winter. So far, there has been no discernable improvement, in fact, quite the opposite. I suggest to you that this sort of ‘We do what we want’ attitude from the local police, an open flaunting of disregard of the law, gives the impression that those who have the guns do as they please. Is this the message you wish to send to the neighborhood kids? To the neighbors around you? That the Police can break laws we must obey, whether they are on duty or off? That they can blast their music day & night without concern for those who live and work on these blocks? That any complaint is to be answered by the suggestive cleaning of a gun? Why is a trained police professional cleaning his gun in an open parking lot in the first place? Finally, I came home from work the other day, to have a man in prison uniform, standing on the 5th District drive way on to Rampart St. ask me for a cigarette. I refused to answer. He then began calling out to a passing girl on a bicycle to ‘come one over’. She fled. Why are inmates, trustee or otherwise, wandering around in the parking lot, hooting at girls and begging for cigarettes? Is this evidence of the safety level to be expected in the 5th District? While I would love to hear that these issues will be dealt with, I’ve heard it before. What would be great to hear is the reasonable respect that a neighborhood can expect from the police officers that their tax dollars pay to employ, rather then the thug behavior of indolent neighbors.