A Chicago police executive ordered more than 70 police officers to leave their North Side districts Wednesday night to participate in a “public health mission” on the West Side.
At least 40 units, including tactical teams, beat cars, and sergeants were pulled from an area stretching from Division Street to the north city limits and from Lake Michigan to O’Hare for the show of force that insiders say had nothing to do with COVID-19.
The exercise was reportedly the brainchild of CPD Deputy Chief Ernest Cato, who recently lost his bid to become the department’s superintendent. The winner of that race, David O. Brown, was sworn in as the city’s top cop just hours before “Operation Flood Zone” kicked off around 8 p.m.
Nearly all of the reassigned assets were ordered to “babysit” a two-block-square section of the Garfield Park neighborhood, according to a source. The effort focused on an area near Madison Street and Congress Parkway, the source said. Around 11 p.m., the entire circus moved to the Humboldt Park neighborhood.
“Squad cars are being ordered to drive around with emergency lights and sirens activated,” another source said.
But the bigger concern for many officers is that they were ordered to conduct “coronavirus dispersals” of citizens on the street “even though they were not committing any crimes.” The action, the officers said, is unconstitutional and the orders put the cops in legal jeopardy.
Earlier this month, the 11th District commander ordered officers to demand identification from anyone who tried to enter four residential streets in the area. The Sun-Times reported Harrison District Cmdr. Darrell Spencer told officers that “only people who live on those blocks would be able to enter them.”
Ironically, photos of Wednesday night’s effort, dubbed “Operation Flood Zone” by police brass, showed CPD leadership gathered in groups with many not wearing face masks.
Multiple sources said police resources were pulled from the 14th (Shakespeare); 15th (Austin); 16th (Jefferson Park); 17th (Albany Park); 19th (Town Hall); 20th (Lincoln); 24th (Rogers Park); and 25th (Grand Central) police districts.
Just hours before legions of officers swept citizens from their West Side streets, Brown told the city to “buckle your seatbelts, we’re headed to the moon” as he promised Chicagoans would have the “highest level of trust in its officers from its residents.”