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04/14/2010

Daley's "Bad Cop"?

   Count 9th Ward Alderman Anthony Beale among the people surprised to learn that Beale would be appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley as the new chairman of the city council's powerful Police and Fire Committee.  

   At the Council's Wednesday morning meeting the 42 year old Beale, who represents the crime-ridden Roseland neighborhood, told me that Daley notified him of the appointment Tuesday night.  And Beale, incredibly, went on to say that he still had not spoken at length with the Mayor about the chairmanship.

  "I haven't talked with him in depth about what his expectations are", Beale revealed, adding, "I'm no stranger to the committee.  I'm not formally on the committee but I've attended a lot of meetings."

   Anthony Beale, in his third term as 9th Ward Alderman, is a well-known but often cursed name in Chicago police stations.  In 2008, he provoked an angry reaction from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7 when he championed the hiring of private, armed security guards to patrol the Roseland business district.  Months later, he infuriated rank and file cops when he publicly questioned their need for an annual uniform allowance.

  The FOP's last contract expired in 2007.  Since then bitter negotiations, punctuated by huge marches by off-duty officers on city hall, have made virtually no progress toward a new deal.  A Daley spokeswoman dismissed any suggestion that the appointment of Beale, perceived by many cops as a police antagonist, was an attempt to send a message to the union.

  The alderman says he wasn't appointed to be a tough-talking "Bad Cop" in the city's impasse with its largest police union: 

  "I think that the police understand that I have a responsibility as an elected official to raise key issues that affect our residents on a day-to-day basis", said Beale.

  The Mayor insisted Beale is the right person for the job at the right time.

  "Anthony has a good career. (He) works very hard for his community; an upcoming political leader and a good government official", praised Daley.

   Beale follows former 29th Ward Alderman Isaac Carothers as committee chairman.  Carothers, who resigned from the council after pleading guilty to Federal corruption charges, was a critic of police superintendent Jody Weis but considered a supporter of rank and file officers.

   Chairman Beale told me he will advocate changing the police department's beat system.  He supports more flexible deployment strategies wherein more officers are dispatched to patrol neighborhoods with the most crime.

   And expect the new P & F boss to be an outspoken supporter of change in the police and fire department pension systems.  He calls new benefit guidelines 'critical" to the city's economic survival.

   "Something has to be done", warned Beale.  "If we don't do something then we're going to continue to be faced with huge deficits and not enough revenue coming into the City of Chicago to support those pensions." 

   Fraternal Order of Police President Mark Donahue noted that Beale had never served on the Police and Fire Committee in the alderman's 11 years on the Council.   On the Mayor's appointment, Donahue commented that he "could not think of a poorer choice" to lead the panel that makes major public safety policy decisions for Chicago.

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