Explorations in Policing, Faith and Life (With a hint of humor, product reviews, news and whatever catches my attention)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Another fallen officer...May he rest in peace.

A Chicago officer was shot and killed last week. Here is the article about him in the Chicago Tribune. I want to point out that the family would put up with his killer till she caused them too much trouble and then kick her to the streets so that should would become our (the police) problem. I wonder how the officer's future would be different if his killer's family had properly executed their responsibilities rather then dumping them on all of us.

Slain officer a beat cop to the core
By Angela Rozas and Robert Mitchum | Chicago Tribune reporters
11:26 PM CDT, July 2, 2008

When Chicago Police Officer Richard Francis got roughed up by a drunk a few weeks ago, injuring his back, his fellow officers told him to take it easy and ride out the rest of his year or two on medical leave before retiring.

But soon, Francis, a 27-year veteran of the department known to many as "Buzz," was back at the Belmont District roll call. He told his brothers in blue that they would have to push him out. When he did finally leave, he would do so quietly. They would never know he retired—he would simply not be there one day.

Early Wednesday morning, while on a seemingly routine assignment on patrol alone, Francis was shot and killed in a struggle with a woman who had caused a disturbance with a CTA bus passenger less than a block from his police station, police said.

The woman, whom sources say sometimes slept at the police station and was often erratic and incoherent, shot him in the head with his service weapon before she was shot several times by responding officers at about 2 a.m. Francis died about an hour later in Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. The woman, 44, remained in critical condition Wednesday night.
It's a tragic loss for his family. It's a terrible loss for the Chicago Police Department," Police Supt. Jody Weis said. "It's a stark reminder of what the dangers this department and its officers face everyday."

Colleagues say Francis, 60, was the quintessential Chicago street cop, the officer you met if you ran a red light in Lakeview, got rowdy at a Roscoe Village bar, or got arrested and won a personal tour of the back of his squadrol.

Francis walked with an identifiable gait, the product of a bad knee from an unruly arrest he made years ago. But the leg never got him down. Nothing much did.

He loved his job manning "the wagon" on an overnight shift populated by officers half his age. "Life is beautiful," he'd tell anyone who would listen, even when it wasn't. He had a lot of loves: his wife and two stepchildren, his basset hounds and several motorcycles.

"Buzz was stubborn," said Norman Knutson, his most recent partner of eight years. "He drove his partners crazy. He was a character, and everybody loved him. He stuck on the job because of the camaraderie with the guys."

"He was just one of those guys who came to work every day, didn't complain, didn't whine and did a good job and went home to his family," said Belmont Area Deputy Chief Bruce Rottner. "Those are the guys who never get in the papers, never get accolades, never get awards, but those are the guys that are the backbone of the police department."

Despite his seniority, Francis chose the overnight shift because he liked the quiet pace and the time it gave him during the day to help care for his adult daughter, Bianca, who has special needs.

A longtime bachelor, he married his wife, Debbie, 10 years ago and took to family life, recalled Tom Casey, a friend who knew Francis since 1st grade. Francis paid college tuition for his wife's other daughter, Amanda, and spent most of his time off with family, colleagues said.

Francis joined the force in his 30s after graduating from St. Gregory's High School and doing a tour during the Vietman War in the Navy's elite Seals program. After the Navy, he worked as a building engineer at the Union League Club downtown.

Francis was inspired to become an officer by Casey's father, who was a Chicago police officer and a mentor to Francis after his own father died when he was a boy, Casey said. He worked patrol in the Monroe and Near North Districts before joining the Belmont District eight years ago, earning 35 honorable mentions and a commendation from the department.

He loved country music, to the chagrin of his partners, and happily sang along to oldies rock 'n' roll. He teased his partners, chattering on the police radio by adding "Nam" to every other word, a reference to his Vietnam experience, Knutson said.

Even though his primary job was to transport arrestees, his love of the law wouldn't let him abide any lawbreaking, and he would pull over anyone he saw disobeying traffic laws, Knutson said.

"He was a stickler for traffic laws," Knutson recalled. "He didn't really want to write people up, but he just wanted them to know what they were doing wrong. He hated criminals, and he hated traffic violators, but if you were in dire need, he went above and beyond."

Francis had a sense of humor about his work, too, and would often pick up trash left in his wagon from a previous shift and send it in office mail to the officers who worked the previous shift.

"He'd say just clean it out," recalled Belmont District Officer Dennis Mushol, who at one time worked the wagon before Francis. "Everybody loved him. Everybody is just numb here."

Francis recently transferred back to a regular beat car and was working alone near Belmont and Western Avenues just feet away from his police station when he saw a CTA driver waving him down, police said.

When he stopped, the driver and a passenger told him the woman was causing trouble. He radioed for backup and got out of his vehicle. The woman, 4-foot-11 and an estimated 290 pounds, approached him. As he tried to usher her away, she became irate and struggled with him, grabbing his holstered gun, police said. She shot Francis as other officers arrived and rushed forward, they said.

She may have fired at those police officers as well, sources said, before they fired several shots, wounding her. No charges were filed against her by Wednesday night.

The woman, who according to court documents has no criminal record, was familiar to officers at the Belmont District, sleeping occasionally in the women's bathroom or in chairs in the district, police sources said. A current address for the woman matched an East Garfield Park shelter where staff did not remember the woman but said that Chicago detectives had come by Wednesday, showing photographs.

Some police officers said privately that they believed Francis should not have been working the beat alone that night. A departmental agreement dating to the 1960s suggests that officers should not work in cars alone after dark for safety reasons.

But the policy isn't binding and allows room for officers to be placed alone in cars unless they complained. Few do, officers said. As a result, many officers work patrol alone, especially in lower-crime neighborhoods.

Knutson said he rode with Francis' body from the hospital to the morgue, trying to honor the years the two spent together working their own squadrol.

"I didn't want to go . . . but how many times did he and I take people to the morgue?" he said. "He was my partner. I had to go with him."

Tribune reporters Dan P. Blake, Monique Garcia, Karl Stampfl, Mary Owen and David Heinzmann contributed to this report.

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