If anyone was predisposed to be pro-cop, it was Jeffrey Lyons. But recent events have caused him to question the whole Chicago police hierarchy.
The son of an officer killed in the line of duty, in late November Lyons met up with an old friend where he felt comfortable socializing -- a cop bar out on Chicago's West Side. Outside the bar, as they were leaving at closing, they embraced. An off-duty cop leaving the bar yelled, "get that faggot shit away from my truck," to which Lyons responded, "What's your problem?" The reply: a fist to the face.
And lest we think it was a problem of just one, individual bigot cop, seven to nine of his cop buddies joined in the attack, briefly knocking Lyons unconscious, fracturing his cheek bone, and breaking his nose.
Towards the end of the pummeling, one cop taunted Lyons, "Get this through your head, you faggots will never win."
But "the faggots" are doing their damnedest to win. In addition to the irony of being the son of a cop, Lyons isn't even gay. But the Lesbian and Gay rights activist group, the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network (CABN), is treating the case as a gay-bashing case and working with Lyons and his lawyer, Tim Cavenagh, to secure justice. Cavenagh recently filed a $3 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the individual cops, the City of Chicago, and the bar outside of which the attack occurred.
Central to the case is the police cover-up of the attack. Certainly the police response would have been slightly different if instead the assailants had been civilians, and the victims were cops.
Lyons's friend took down the license plates of three of the attackers' cars as they fled the scene. He promptly gave the plate numbers to the officer who responded to the victims' 911 call, but the responding officer didn't even bother to run the plates or put out an APB so the attackers could be apprehended in transit from the scene of the crime. Cavenagh later learned the cars were registered to police officers.
After the attack, Lyons's principal attacker went back inside the bar, but the responding officer didn't allow Lyons to go inside the bar with him so that a positive identification and arrest could take place. Moreover, the responding officer didn't prevent a bar employee from coming outside the bar and washing Lyons' blood off of the sidewalk.
The cover-up continues at the highest level of the Department. For all its cant about "victims rights," the City of Chicago refuses to release any information to Lyons, including police progress reports and the name of the responding officer who so ably assisted the cover-up. The three officers whose license plates were identified by Lyons's friend were temporarily put on desk duty. When they were released back to full duty, Lyons found out about it by reading it in the morning newspaper.
CABN also has taken pains to point out the disgusting role of the Cook County States Attorney, Dick Devine, for failing to prosecute the cops who attacked Lyons. Devine, a close ally of Mayor Richard M. Daley, has spent the last several years working to get great PR as a fighter against hate crimes, but he typically is no where to be found when the hate crimes are committed by cops.
Even the Chicago Free Press, the more conservative of the city's two main gay papers, was prompted to editorialize recently that "Lacking a credible process of public accountability, the police are left to their own devices in handling complaints against them, and activists with the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network have good reason to be cynical. In the past two years, there have been several allegations of homophobic attacks against gay men by officers of the law, and no one has been charged in connection with any of the incidents."
Dick Devine is "hiding behind what has become a familiar bureaucratic catch-22 refrain," continued the editorial, "his office says it must first wait for a complaint to be filed by police investigators. Certainly Devine could use the power of his office to pressure the police into conducting a thorough and honest investigation into Lyons' beating. His reluctance to do so in this case and others further erodes public confidence in a local law enforcement system that appears to have a license to bash."