Officer Friendly, blank you!

21 years, and you're outta here!

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By Jim Bowman


Dear Oak Park and River Forest,

Another day, another -- what? Comings and goings, nothing grand. Clouds on the horizon, last night got stuffy, as July nights do.

Meanwhile, I see that Officer Friendly is on his way to being defunded by at least two school boards. After 21 years. It's their right, if not their duty, to do so. But let it be known, sure as shootin' there will be a spike in classroom crime – cheating on tests, copying homework, passing notes, making faces behind teacher's back, who knows what else? It's gonna be "Officer Friendly, [blank] you!" time, right out of "West Side Story."

So it goes. But the casual observer has to wonder. Take the comment by the high school superintendent at a July 10 meeting – when they voted to do the deed -- that in her four years at the school, she "has not heard one complaint" about the in-school police officer.

The board president at the same meeting said she and her black stepson have had "nothing but good interactions" with the officer. Hers was not the common view.

"There may have not been formal complaints," said a board member, conceding what some would call a key point. But students have "repeatedly come to us and said they feel threatened, intimidated, targeted and policed" by the police presence.

"If the goal is to have a better relationship with police, that's putting a lot of pressure on our students," said another member, "especially our students of color who've talked to us about trauma."

It "could be a trigger to some students," the Pioneer Press writer put it, accurately characterizing the comment.

The elementary board had the same experience, having gotten complaints from "several hundred . . . students, parents and community members [with] significant concerns," this board reported in a statement read at its July 14 meeting.

Here clearly is the crux, though issues of accountability and cost were also also raised.

An incident is recalled: In the mid-sixties on the West Side, as plans were being made in the projects for a neighborhood gathering, a mother specified that no "uniformed police" would be on hand or dealing in any way with her children.

It's one of the more enduring and corrosive rules to live by of the American experience.

Email: Twitter: @BlitheSp

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Reader Comments

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Dave Slade from Oak Park  

Posted: July 28th, 2020 9:05 PM

I'd be willing to bet that Officer Friendly has heard that comment from a few youngsters.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: July 28th, 2020 7:01 PM

Do you ever read what you write, Brian? First, it's "who will volunteer? Appoint a police officer who doesn't want the assignment and it is a nightmare for everyone," then it's "Numerous officers will want two volunteer for an assignment where people don't want them." Right. Ok. Back to the Cubs.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 28th, 2020 6:48 PM

Numerous officers will want to volunteer for an assignment where people don't want them. numerous officers will want to work with helicopter parents, difficult youth, staff and elected officials who hold them in contempt daily. A challenge for very few , however the assignment just might not be worth the effort. Plus police assistance is very far away and challenged by locked doors. The officer just might ask for and obtain the the assignment, however no official can make an officer stick with the assignment. Regardless of the schedule.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: July 28th, 2020 4:51 PM

Jim, NO officer is being defunded. None. OPRF is dropping its contract with the OPPD. The officer just goes back on other duties. As for Brian, he should know better; having been on the department for 30 years. There are numerous officers who would jump at the chance to have regular hours and not have to deal with different shifts. I disagree with the OPRF decision, and if they change their mind, police brass won't have a problem finding someone who wants to volunteer.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 28th, 2020 4:12 PM

The pendulum swings both directions. The real issue might be if the police are invited back to the school, who will volunteer? Appoint a police officer who doesn't want the assignment and it is a nightmare for everyone.

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