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This post has been updated.
Here's a routine crime story from my neighborhood:
Early Saturday morning, a man allegedly followed a woman out of the Jarvis Red Line station in Rogers Park. On the street, he grabbed her from behind, showed her a gun, and forced her into a more secluded area where he allegedly robbed and sexually assaulted her. CTA cameras captured footage of them leaving the station; by Sunday night, the man's picture had been released by the police. On Monday it appeared on the morning news.
Here's the part where the story gets a little odd:
Later Monday, 26-year-old Rogers Park resident Milton Anderson and a neighbor he knew through work presented themselves at 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore's office. Anderson confessed to the robbery (but not to the assault), and Moore escorted him to the Area One police station at Belmont and Western, where Anderson turned himself in. On Tuesday police charged Anderson with two felony counts, one for robbery and one for sexual assault, both with a firearm, and Moore posted the story on his website.
And here's the question that stuck in my mind:
Why did Anderson and his neighbor decide to involve Moore in this situation? Moore is my alderman too. I've shaken his hand at neighborhood street fairs and when I dropped by his office for a free flu shot, but when I think of him representing me, it's more impersonally in the City Council, not as an intermediary with the police.
Here's how Moore explained it to me:
Anderson's neighbor, whose name has not been disclosed, told Moore he'd seen pictures of the suspect, who he believed to be Anderson, on the news. Sometime on Monday, he ran into Anderson's girlfriend on the street and told her that the police had the suspect's picture. He visited Anderson at his apartment on the 1700 block of West Juneway, just a 15-minute walk from the scene of the crime, where Anderson lived with his girlfriend and their one-year-old child.
"This person said that if [Anderson] cared about his girlfriend and the baby," says Moore, "he shouldn't wait for the police to come to the apartment or for the police to stop him on the street. He explained that the cops don't know if he has a gun on him-he's accused of sexual assault with a gun. Or they'll kick down the door in front of his girlfriend and his child."
What Moore didn't say, only implied, is that everybody knows what happens to a black person whom the police suspect is armed. Or everybody thinks they do. Look at Laquan McDonald. Look at Ronald Johnson. Look at Tamir Rice.
But why did they need the alderman to escort them to the police station?
"It's based on a relationship of trust I've established in the community," Moore asserts. "Particularly with this person. He felt that if I walked into the police station with [Anderson], the police would handle the case in a professional manner and that his safety was better assured."
But what does this say about our country now that a black man feels he might be shot if the police apprehend him on the street, and that he needs to be escorted by a white alderman to the police station to confess a crime so that, as the alderman puts it, "his safety [will be] better assured"?