Dear sir (or ma’am):
The article published in your August 31 issue “Armed and Dangerous” was pretty well written; however, I feel that the writer, Tori Marlan, didn’t really point the fingers where they deserved to be pointed.
I’ve known Harrison Speakes for many years; before he was promoted to sergeant, he was a widely respected field training officer on the south side of Chicago. Why did he feel he didn’t “have the power” to get Marsalis fired? Speakes states that Marsalis “didn’t accept instruction well,” and “flirted with women and handed out his phone number while he was on duty.” After five weeks, according to the article, Speakes asked to be relieved of his assigned duties to train Marsalis. There was an obvious problem here; recruits can be fired for anything in their first year of employment. Why didn’t Speakes tell the watch commander that Marsalis was unsuitable for the job? He certainly had the opportunity to dump this guy early on, yet he chose, like so many others on this job in supervisory positions, to “pass the problem along” and “let somebody else deal with it.” I’ve seen a few PPOs fired on the recommendations of their FTOs; Speakes had the power to do the same, had he chosen to simply exercise it.
Sergeant Cora Sue Roberts is no better. She had the power to document Marsalis’s shortcomings on her daily logs, and in initiating summary punishment proceedings, as well as formal complaint register numbers against Marsalis to document his transgressions. She claims she initiated a SPAR form against Marsalis, recommending a two-day suspension, yet never found out the outcome of this disciplinary action. Why didn’t she? All she had to do was ask the watch commander or district commander what became of it. Why didn’t she inquire about it? I would think that any sergeant who initiated such an action against a department member under their supervision would want to know the outcome.
And what of the numerous female partners assigned to work with Marsalis, who came and went at a record pace? Why no statements from them? Were the bosses at the 021st District blind, or did they simply not want to see the problem that was before them? Why would so many women in this department allow Marsalis to get away with so much? Perhaps Sergeant Roberts decided that the best thing she could do for her career was to “sit this one out.”
It is very disheartening to see the very people the public as well as the working police count on to bring quality individuals into the job dropping the ball continuously. Far too often, the worst examples of this job are given exemplary efficiency ratings, even promoted meritoriously, through clout alone. How the personnel division could even conceive to hire a man who had failed a drug test for the same job previously is beyond me.
Sergeants have to understand that they are no longer “one of the boys” when they accept that position; they are supervisors, and will have to make some very unpopular decisions, ones that will hurt people sometimes, for the greater good of the job. Field training officers must get past the thought that “well, the guy/gal spent so much money on equipment, I can’t just say the kid can’t cut it.” Many FTOs, on the basis of that alone, will pass every recruit they train, regardless of how well or poorly they perform their tasks. Sometimes the “bad guy” on this job is the one person who will deal with a problem employee in a direct and professional manner. That being the case, we certainly need more of them. By the way, your article never mentioned that Harrison Speakes is now a sergeant himself. Let’s hope he takes his responsibilities more seriously since his promotion.
No wonder confidence in the job by the rank and file is at an all-time low.
A fellow Chicago cop