Blogging the Thin Blue Line: Second City Cop vs. Chicago Copwatch

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This content originally appeared on my former Chicagosphere online-media blog, hosted on the Chicago Tribune‘s ChicagoNow network.

A highly popular blog written by and for Chicago police officers, Second City Cop, gives a provocative insight into the world of the Windy City’s finest. Pointedly opinionated and rarely politically correct, reading it may tell you more about the inner workings of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) that you ever wanted to know. Meanwhile, watchdog blog Chicago Copwatch rarely gives the guys in blue a break. So who paints the fairer picture of Chicago’s sworn peacekeepers?

Regular readers recall Second City Cop as the blog that originally called out the CPD and city for allegedly not reporting all instances of lakefront violence during Chicago’s July 3rd Independence Eve fireworks. (I covered the issue here and here.) Unlike more middle-of-the-road cop blogs like the eminently readable Second City Sarge or Chicago Now’s own Arresting Tales, browsing Second City Cop all but requires a seatbelt.

That’s not meant as a slight. On what appears to be a daily-or-better basis, the editor, an anonymous Chicago law enforcement officer (LEO) with an uncanny nose for news, links to and discusses news, events, and controversies–both within the department and bubbling across local media–that affect the lives of CPD officers.

The site has a decidedly rightist slant, offers little love for Mayor Daley or most CPD brass, and judging by the content of the regularly enormous comment threads, enjoys a healthy readership within the department. Among the items posted by Second City Cop this year:

Such posts make for an interesting read, whatever side of the issues you’re on.

The comment threads, however, can be positively pause-inducing. In many of them, you’ll find commenters identifying themselves as LEOs talking about racial and ethnic minorities, CPD and city officials, and the average Chitown citizen in the most objectionable of terms. Foes of racial profiling would find little to assuage their fears here.

They shouldn’t assume racially charged comments represent all Chicago officers, though. Happy campers tend not to be the ones to post hate in bitch-and-moan comment threads. I doubt all–or even most–CPD employees think in such a bigoted manner.

At least I hope they don’t.

Observing from the citizen side of things, Chicago Copwatch purports to be a member of a “network of Canadian and United States activist organizations that observe and document police conduct”–without actually naming or linking to any other affiliated organizations (like, perhaps, this one.)

The site counsels residents to know their rights regarding stop, seizure, and arrest, offers resources on how to file complaints against the police and report instances of brutality, and promotes the (now-defunct) Chicago Reader police torture archive. The site also opines on recent police news, and reprints cop stories from the major dailies, in some cases in fullnot usually an acceptable practice on the Internet.

Among the items recently on the Chicago Copwatch front page:

Keeping the public informed about its rights and the activities of its police force is useful.
Not useful, however, is an overall tone that seems to objectify police officers–in Chicago or anywhere else–as universally malfeasant with a total and flagrant disregard for civil liberties.

As with most knee-jerk generalizations, that’s unfair to the balance of rank-and-file LEOs who respect the rights of their fellow citizens–no matter how they might blow off steam on sites like Second City Cop. (To see a fairer take on citizen advocacy, see the Criminal Justice Blog of the Chicago Justice Project.)

Speaking of right and wrong, no matter how tightly you wrap yourself in an alleged social-justice flag, reprinting content on the blogosphere in full without permission is one thing and one thing only: theft.

Irony, table of one watchdog website, your table’s ready.

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What do you think?