It was such a good week at the academy.
Physically I felt great. Intellectually I was on fire. In the training scenarios, trying to figure out exactly what the suspect was lying about, holding my own with an armed robber leaving a bank and carrying a gun, issuing a handful of tickets to a driver on a darkened road in the middle of the night.
It all went so well.
Then Chicago happened.
More correctly, Chicago was reported. It actually happened more than a month ago.
You’ve all seen it or heard about it. A drunk, off-duty Chicago cop being denied another drink and turning his anger from a customer to the bartender.
And beating her brutally. I almost wrote senselessly, but that just doesn’t fit what he did. Neither does ‘brutally,’ to be honest. In fact, I have no words for how horrified, how absolutely enraged, how dry-mouthed with fury I am at this asshole member of CPD.
As a former journalist, I have been trained to write ‘alleged,’ as in ‘Allegedly beating her brutally.’ Except we know it wasn’t alleged. We all saw it. Over and over, given us by a security camera installed four days before the attack. Hanging quietly in the corner of the bar, recording everything Anthony G. Abbate did.
The way he yelled at another customer. The way he shoved that customer until the bartender, a five-foot, four inch woman who weighed in at a buck-fifteen, got in the middle. The way he shouted at her and then strode behind the bar.
The way he punched her. Kicked her. Threw her to the floor like a pesky napkin stuck to his shoe.
At the academy, we’re in a news bubble. Yeah, I check my news websites everyday, but things happen in the world that I don’t know about until the weekend when I catch up.
But I — and my entire class of 75 future coppers — knew about this mere hours after it was reported by a TV station in Chicago. We knew because we got hammered with the video late Thursday afternoon in class.
Ironically, our class Friday morning was Citizen-Police Relations. And our instructor, a 30-year member of the Illinois State Police, was stunned into near speechlessness. He hit us with that first thing Friday morning and for nearly two hours, we discussed it.
CPD has better than 10,000 officers, most of us knew. And this guy, this Abbate — who lots of people in later news accounts said was frequently drunk, frequently badging people, frequently threatening and shoving people including a homeless man who had the temerity to enter Abbate’s watering hole — was just one man.
A single officer. Less than 1/10,000th of the total force of Chicago cops.
And his actions were already painting every member of CPD, and many of the rest of us around the state and nation, with the same bitter, angry brush. Don’t believe me? Run ‘chicago cop’ and ‘bartender’ through Google. Dig up a bare handful of news sites with comments sections.
People are angry over this. People should be angry. Our instructors, who hammer recruits with integrity and honesty, are angry. Our instructors should be angry.
Most of the cops in my class are angry.
But we should be furious. We should be frothing at the mouth, spitting blood, pulverizing rocks in our bare fists furious.
That man, at least in public perception, is us. Behind that badge, regardless of the kind of badge or the jurisdiction, we are all the same.
This isn’t the kind of bullshit as the FBI abusing its power for National Security Letters under a provision of the Patriot Act. That was huge, scary, Orwellian; scary like a nuclear exhange is scary. But this…this…abortion of a cop…was frightening like a match held too closely to a face.
This was down the street. This was a man given the duty of protecting my Mama. Not national security or our borders or anything as amorphous as that, but my Mama in her car and her home and going into a grocery store.
The barkeep’s name is Karolina, and she’s a woman with a husband and a 16-month old son who was working a second job. Doing her job efficiently and well. He was drunk and so, as a barkeep, she cut him off.
No more booze. His response was to beat her.
But that’s not everything. Not if you’ve watched the entire video. Before the beating, Abbate can be seen yelling at her and flexing his muscles like a low-rent Hans and Franz from Saturday Night Live or a fifty cent Governor of California.
And during the attack, there are two men, one on the left side of the frame and one on the right, who do nothing. Absolutely nothing.
No, not technically correct. The man on the left makes a cell phone call. 911, maybe? Thus far there are no records of a 911 call. So who did he call before he fled the bar like a chickenshit, rather than helping the bartender?
Who knows but here’s the next thing: she took his beating.
Yeah. The genetic mutant of a cop was going after that man, the one on the cell phone, apparently taking a chair with which to blast him, though some reports say the copper put the man into a headlock and punched him.
The bartender, an immigrant from Poland, jumped in the middle of it and knocked Abbate off balance. The cop — hopefully soon to be a former cop and newly minted DOC inmate — slipped, slammed into the bar, then turned on her.
She stopped that man from getting hit; that man who then ignored her getting hit.
I can’t even believe the total amount of bullshit that went on in that bar. I can’t believe it happened, that two men stood and watched, that it took what appears to be at least one older guy to stop it, that she reported it to the cops two days later but they couldn’t arrest Abbate until March 14 because he had checked himself into rehab.
What? Rehab? Yep, the Great American Apology. Any problem at all can be solved, or at least softened, by immediately checking into rehab. In other words, it wasn’t my fault, the Daniel’s made me do it.
Excuse my French, but bull-fucking-shit.
But hold on, we’re not done yet, there is more.
Abbate is suspected of attempted bribery — within minutes of the beating, someone popped in to the bar and asked her how much she wanted to keep it quiet. She said no thanks and the next call was to the bar’s owner, with threats of finding drugs in his car or Karolina’s or both.
The heart stops at the sheer balls of that. I mean, you’re already a coward because you beat a woman less than half your size (250 pounds versus 115), and because you fled to rehab to avoid arrest and now you’re trying to buy her off. And when that doesn’t work, you threaten her with jail time?
Get the hell outta my industry, you’re giving the rest of us a bad name.
I am so angry about this, so furious that this happened to a woman trying to get her bills paid, and yeah, selfishly angry that I’ve already had to answer to friends of mine how the hell this guy could ever get a CPD badge, I can barely breathe.
One of the aspects of America that makes me crazy is the endless march of lawsuits. For everything, all the time. But this time, I would give this woman money out of my pocket to make certain she has the ability to sue the holy bejesus outta this guy.
And no, CPD and the taxpayers of Chicago will not have to pay the damages. He was off-duty and out of uniform, and even had he been on-duty, he would have been outside the scope of his employment and training. This will land, hopefully like a baseball bat to the head, on him and him alone.
Did he think he’d get away with this? Did he think Chicago and the rest of the state and the country would sit back and blow this off? Sadly, I don’t think he thought at all. (And yeah, I know this kind of thing happens too frequently and does, in fact, get blown off). But I do believe the moment it was over, he understood exactly what he’d done.
If he hadn’t understood, the attempt buy-off and the threats would never have happened. As for sorry it happened, I believe he’s sorry only to the extent that he got caught. After all, have any of you heard any reports of apologies? Any statements of regret?
Not a peep. Even after a month-long stint in rehab, where he cleaned himself up, got control of his hostility, came to grips with his alcoholism. Not a sound.
The only silver lining — and it’s not much of one at all considering her injuries and the injuries done to every single police officer in this country — is that it happened while there were two classes of future officers at the acedemy. More than 150 students, all asking and being asked the hard questions about our field and our members and our selves
Hopefully the answers are the right ones.