The Chicago Police Department and Norfolk Southern Railroad are under fire after videos of a sting operation in which so-called “bait trucks” were parked in Englewood in an attempt to nab would-be thieves went viral on Wednesday.
In the videos, reportedly filmed last Thursday and Friday, activists and community residents approach unmanned and unmarked semitrucks to call out what they say is an attempt to entrap poor residents. The residents say the trucks were stocked with Nikes and left unlocked.
Several officers, including many uniformed Chicago police officers, can be seen gathering around the trucks.
“It’s a set up, man. This is how they do us,” one man is heard saying in the video shot on Thursday by Englewood activist Charles Mckenzie near a basketball court on 59th Street and Carpenter Avenue. “They some dirty [expletive].”
Later in the video, an officer is heard telling the crowd that if “no one touches [the truck], no one gets locked up.”
By Wednesday, the videos had garnered hundreds of thousands of views across multiple social media platforms.
In a statement to news website Block Club Chicago, CPD spokesman Officer Patrick McGinnis said the investigation was lead by Norfolk Southern Railroad Police and that “CPD was there to assist with enforcement.”
Nortfolk Southern spokeswoman Susan Terpay said in a statement that the trucks were part of a “joint surveillance operation” seeking to catch people who have broken into freight containers at rail yards on the South Side.
On Wednesday, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus, chastised the operation, calling it “an unacceptable and inappropriate use of police resources.
“In a moment where police capacity is clearly under extreme strain, these sort of tactics are the last thing we should be spending manpower and energy on,” Sawyer said in a written statement.
Karen Sheley, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois’ Police Practices Project, also issued a statement condemning the operation, saying on Wednesday that it weakens community support of police efforts.
“The Chicago Police Department admits that it can’t solve murders and violent crimes because communities of color don’t trust the Chicago Police. These stunts won’t help,” Sheley said.
Mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot also weighed in, calling the operation a “step backwards”—particularly after one of the deadliest weekends in recent years.
“We’ve got to get to the bottom of how this happened and make sure these tactics are never used again,” said the former head of the Chicago Police Board.
CPD has employed “bait cars” for more than a decade to stifle car theft.
According to the FBI, more than $26 million worth of goods were stolen from cargo containers across the country in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available.
In other crime news, a orthern California police chief has said he was “disgusted” to hear his estranged son was arrested in an attack on a 71-year-old Sikh grandfather.
Footage of the attack showed Sahib Singh Natt walking on Monday when he was confronted by two men.
One of them began kicking him after he fell down.
Police say they are investigating it as an attempted robbery, not a hate crime.
The police chief’s son, Tyrone McAllister, was taken into custody on Wednesday and has not yet filed a plea.
He faces felony charges for allegedly attacking Mr Natt as he walked by a park in nearby Manteca, California,
Chief McAllister is not handling the case, but said he helped Manteca police locate his son, who has been estranged from him for several months.
Surveillance video footage shows two men wearing hooded sweatshirts approach Mr Natt, who does not speak English.
One of the men then begins to kick Mr Natt, who falls on to the pavement.
The men start to walk away, but the suspect who attacked him returns to kick him three more times while he remains on the ground.
The man spits on Mr Natt and runs away as the elderly man lies unmoving on the street.
Police told local media one of the men may have brandished a firearm in the air as they left.
“The victim suffered only minor physical injuries, but as you can imagine, the greater Sikh community is devastated”, Chief McAllister wrote.
“Despite having the desire any parent would have in wanting to protect their child, my oath is (and always will be) to the law,” he added.
“My stomach has been churning from the moment I learned this news.”
Mr Natt’s family told KGO-TV that the grandfather made his way home, injured. He has since been treated and released from hospital.
“Everybody’s scared, you know, me, everybody,” his son-in-law, Maneet Singh Virk said.
Manteca city police said the incident is likely an attempted robbery and that “at this time, there are no indications that this assault was a hate crime”.
Prabhjot Singh of The Sikh Coalition civil rights group told KGO-TV: “It doesn’t matter that the assailant was the son of a police chief. It could have been anyone.”
Sikhism hails from the Indian subcontinent, and observant Sikhs wear turbans. Members of the community have been attacked in the past by assailants mistaking them for Muslims.
The assault on Mr Natt is the second in California in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, Surjit Singh Malhi, 50, was beaten by two men as he put up campaign signs for local Republican candidates in Stanislaus County.
The men also vandalized Mr Malhi’s vehicle, spray-painting the words “Go back to your country”, CBS Sacramento reported.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
August 12th, 2018