As overwhelmed Chicago police officers struggled to handle massive Mexican Independence Day crowds downtown on Friday night and early Saturday, routine 911 calls piled up across the area because no cops were available to take them.
Just before 3 a.m. Saturday, most of the calls for help in the two districts that patrol the area were more than four hours old. Some, a dispatcher said, were five hours old.
But a high-ranking Chicago police leader made quick work of that problem: He ordered a dispatcher to “code out” any calls more than two hours old that didn’t involve a physical injury. His order applied to CPD’s Central (1st) and Near North (18th) districts, which patrol the area from 31st Street to Fullerton Avenue and Lake Michigan to the Chicago River.
So, if you reported a burglary in progress, a person with a gun, a group of people loitering on private property, an auto theft, a purse snatching, or anything else that did not involve someone being physically injured, you now understand why cops never show up.
The order by CPD Chief Angel Novalez was broadcast on the local police district radio frequency at around 2:55 a.m., after a unit finally became available to handle calls, and the officer asked the dispatcher where they should go.
“I have a two-hour-59-minute-old person with a gun” in River North, the dispatcher replied.
“Car 8, squad,” Novalez interjected, “Did you say two hours?”
The dispatcher confirmed that “most everything” awaiting police response was ” three-plus hours old. Some of it’s four and five hours old.”
“All right, squad. If it doesn’t involve injury, code it,” Novalez replied.
Here’s the audio, as captured by CrimeIsDown.com:
After the dispatcher cleared out the backlog for the two police districts that patrol downtown, the highest-priority call still waiting for dispatch was a reported criminal sexual assault attempt. It had been waiting 90 minutes for a police response, the dispatcher said.
Novalez, ironically, is supposed to be in charge of the Chicago Police Department’s reform efforts. As deputy chief of community policing before that, he was in charge of fostering the department’s relationship with residents.
One has to wonder how many goofy social media videos of cops dancing and ginned-up “positive community interactions” the department will have to generate in order to overcome the reputation it builds by not responding to 911 calls.
During a press conference on Saturday afternoon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPD Supt. David Brown repeatedly mentioned the problems caused by traffic gridlock during the previous night’s festivities. They both failed to mention that ordinary citizens and businesses who rely on police were denied the basic courtesy of receiving a response to 911 calls.
CPD will enjoy a small side benefit from Novalez’s order: By not responding to 911 calls, fewer police reports are written and, magically, crime goes “down.”