Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents engaged in street arrests in the city of Chicago recently felt compelled to call 9-1-1 and ask for police assistance in the course of two of their operations.
I don't know the precise nature of those calls, but I can easily envision a number of circumstances in which they might feel such a need. We live in ugly times, and crowds can gather quickly in neighborhoods. It only takes one antagonist, one instigator to turn such crowds into mobs intent on obstruction or even violence. This is particularly true for ICE, and indeed all Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies operating in so-called sanctuaries where "progressive" leaders — even those in government and politics who should know better — don't hesitate to use the most inflammatory and abusive language about these agents. In such areas, otherwise ordinary folks can feel emboldened to take action that in saner times would be recognized as imprudent at best, downright criminal at worst.
It isn't overreaction on the part of ICE agents to be ultra-cautious and alert to such possibilities, because this has been the reality on some occasions. Consider that twice in recent months shots have been fired at DHS offices with malicious intent. By the grace of God no one was hurt, although in one of those incidents the perpetrator ended up being killed by police in the ensuing confrontation.
Police officers themselves are sensitive to such possibilities, often in the same geographic locales where ICE agents have become sensitized to the lurking possibility of violence that could result in harm to them, their arrestees, or innocent bystanders, and for the same reasons: progressive city leaders are nearly as quick to vilify police and thus encourage, advertently or inadvertently, the "wing nuts" among us who listen closely to such vitriol and begin to think that showing disrespect, impeding, or even physical confronting the officers will be tolerated by officialdom. Sadly, often enough they're not wrong.
But let's assume that it was something less dire — something as prosaic as the need for traffic control because as the operation progresses, pedestrians and gawkers in cars begin slowing down or stopping to see what's going on. ICE agents know that they will be blamed for obstructing the citizenry from going about its business if they don't ask for police assistance, yet foolish sanctuary policies deprive them of the ability to engage in ordinary law enforcement communication or liaison with the Chicago police department in advance of the operation. So what recourse do ICE agents have but to call 9-1-1 when this situation evolves? What's more, when things reach this point, the stage has been set for that unruly crowd I described earlier, and so prudence dictates that they request police involvement. It is the appropriate course of action on their part.
But you wouldn't think so from the firestorm of reaction that broke out among city officials and leaders following the calls. It was as if end days were upon us. The language was beyond intemperate and at a time calm and logic would best have helped, hysteria prevailed. Without knowing the facts, they accused ICE of "bait-calling" to lure police involvement ... and then demanded an internal investigation to find out what had happened. "Ready! Fire! Aim!"
We now have it on good authority that the police department is contemplating disciplinary action against the officers who responded to the emergency calls. Think about that. In their zeal to toady to city officials who exhibit disrespect for the law, the Chicago police hierarchy is going out of its way to take action against officers who responded to a call to safeguard the public.
Recently, the Fairfax County, Va., police chief attempted to take similar action against an officer who had the effrontery to do his job and cooperate with ICE when he felt his sworn duties required it — and was promptly backed down by the outrage of public opinion in the matter, and rightly so.
The Chicago police department is also apparently going to tinker with the rules and policies by which officers will be allowed to respond to 9-1-1 calls. Think about that, too.
The inevitable adverse consequences of all of this are so self-evident. First, disciplining those officers is going to have a chilling effect on every police officer's willingness to respond to any 9-1-1 calls because they will rightly wonder if their actions will be criticized and left undefended after the fact. Most police officers are hardworking and dedicated, but they have families to raise and bills to pay; they can't afford suspensions without pay for doing what they thought they were supposed to.
Ask yourself: How far will this tinkering with the 9-1-1 rules go? Right now it's ICE they are focused on denying service to (though for the reasons I've explained, even that is stupid and myopic since on street operations — which ICE will never abandon, especially since they've been deprived of the ability to take criminals directly into custody from police holding facilities and the Cook County Jail) the public is also at risk from a non-response policy.
Proposing to discipline the officers and to tinker with the policies are actions so far beyond reasonable that it is almost as if city officials are deliberately setting the stage for future violence against DHS buildings and employees of the kind that resulted in deadly consequences elsewhere once before; the kind of violence that will inevitably require a massive police response replete with SWAT teams and the like. Why is this acceptable? Who is well served by that?
And while you're asking questions, ask this one too: What if the police hierarchy is so pleased with this new cost-saving device that they decide to institute a "priority response" system that says, well, we're going to rank crimes and some just don't merit sending out squad cars. Or perhaps they'll look at the electronic map and say the distance between the closest officers and the person calling is too far to statistically justify immediate response since by then it will be over and those involved long gone. We'll send someone to take a report later ... maybe. How are you going to feel when it's you calling for emergency assistance?
Finally, I can't help but wonder how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money the city of Chicago has sponged up in creating its emergency response communications system. Chances are good that it's actually in the millions. The irony of that is palpable, but, of course, lost on clueless city leaders.