Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

On a little more than a year, two top local law enforcement officials have gotten in trouble for associating with felons. Police superintendent Matt Rodriguez resigned last fall after press accounts detailed his friendship with Frank Milito, convicted of mail fraud and questioned recently in a 1987 murder case. This was a problem, because the police department’s Rule 47 prohibits “associating or fraternizing with any person known to have been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor, either state or federal.”

Then this October, former police superintendent LeRoy Martin took heat for testifying as a character witness for Willie Roy Dunmore, whose five felony convictions are for robbery, transporting narcotics, aggravated assault, and swindling two elderly women. Martin isn’t bound by Chicago police rules anymore, but he had instituted a rule similar to Rule 47 in his new role as police chief for the Illinois Central Management Services Department. More important, he was the GOP candidate for sheriff.

A logical Willie Roy Dunmore noted that not all felons are treated equally: “I see they gave Rostenkowski a big party when he got out of prison.” His observation raises a legitimate question: Now that Dan Rostenkowski is a convicted felon, can members of the police department associate with him? If a police official went to the same dry cleaners as Rosty, for instance, and they ran into each other all the time, would it be OK for them to chat at the counter while they waited for their clothes?

Officer Cesar Guzman from the police department’s press office said each case of fraternizing with Rostenkowski would have to be carefully interpreted, probably by Internal Affairs.

“Obviously, they would have to take a lot of things into consideration,” said Guzman. “How often do you run into him at the cleaners, how often do you talk, do you make a habit of collecting your laundry at the same time….If for some reason I walk into the cleaners and a convicted felon is there that I’ve seen, he says hi. What if I don’t know he’s a convicted felon, even if it’s somebody famous like Rostenkowski? If I ran into him and he said, ‘Excuse me,’ starts asking me if he can move ahead, in front of me in line–all that would be under investigation.”