Officer Friendly, blank you!

21 years, and you're outta here!

July 21st, 2020 6:56 AM

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

  • Love the Journal?

    Become our partner in independent community journalism

    Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

    On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

    No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

    Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

    Donate Now