Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chicago Sun Times Editorial - Get the goon squad out of the hospital

Chicago Sun Times Editorial - Get the goon squad out of the hospital
Copyright by The Chicago Sun Times
February 18, 2007

The physical mistreatment, verbal abuse and false arrest of Sun-Times reporter Steve Patterson by Stroger Hospital police officers as he attempted to cover a homeless protest at the hospital Thursday was hardly the first such stain on this security force.

This so-called police force is one where an officer roughed up a pregnant woman, resulting in her losing her baby and taxpayers losing $1.5 million for her loss. (After the officer was fired, incredibly enough, the county was ordered to rehire him by an arbitrator.) This so-called police force is one where, characteristically using force as a first option, an officer cuffed a TV cameraman even as County Board President Richard Phelan stood there telling him not to. Another excessive act, another costly settlement. Last month, an officer with this so-called police force allegedly pulled a 77-year-old man out of his car, questioned his citizenship and beat him up. He was hospitalized for two months and suffered a stroke.

If these abuses were not so serious, you might be tempted to treat the Stroger Hospital police unit as Keystone Kops gone wild. But there's nothing funny about their egregious misdeeds. In operating independently of the Sheriff's Department, the security force at the hospital gets away with hiring the equivalent of bouncers -- many of them patronage workers with no law enforcement experience. The sooner the plug can be pulled on what looks like cronyism for goons, the better. Other institutions in the city and county have outsourced their security; Stroger Hospital should come to terms with this pattern of misconduct and do the same. A county-appointed commission is expected to report on the problem, but after Thursday's ugly display, what's there to report? As County Board member Robert Maldonado said, these cops are "out of control."


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