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The editorial page of the Sun-Times on Monday addressed the knotty question of why Chicago city workers are so reluctant to report misconduct in the workplace. The editorial said some useful things about a culture at City Hall that leads upright workers to ask themselves, what's the point? But I believe the closest it came to understanding the city's "no snitching" culture was when it called it a "no snitching" culture.
When you put it that way, the question answers itself.
Some people, maybe a lot, are afraid to snitch. But nobody's raised to snitch.
Police superintendent Jody Weis blamed the community when witnesses to the fatal beating of Fenger High student Derrion Albert were slow coming forward. There's no "sense of community and civic urgency," the Tribune had Weis saying at the time, regretting the "code of silence" on the streets.
And when Anthony Abbate was thrown off the force the other day for the videotaped beating of barmaid Karolina Obrycka, her attorney, Terry Ekl, damned the police. If it weren't for the heavy play the media gave the video, Abate "would still be a police officer today," Ekl said in the Tribune. "There is such an obvious code of silence to protect officers who commit acts of misconduct."
How often do lawyers snitch on other lawyers, or reporters on other reporters? We have our own codes of silence—lawyers the attorney-client privilege and reporters the reporter's privilege—which make a lot more sense to ourselves than to anyone else. And where the privilege ends snitching does not begin.
"Real culture change will only occur when the punishments fit the misdeeds," said the Sun-Times. Does the paper think that as soon as honest city workers know their crooked colleagues will really suffer, the honest workers will begin turning them in?