Thursday, August 5, 2010

UPDATE#3 - CPD Loses 3-Foot Alligator On Chicago River

An incredibly lousy report by NBC5 Chicago, incompetence by the Chicago Police Department, stupidity by Animal Control and more (below), but first, my original report, which I wrote as I listened to the police on my scanner: UPDATE, AUGUST 6: They caught the damned thing... August 5, 2010 - 12:25 PM - A three-foot long alligator was spotted sunning itself on the east bank of the north branch of the Chicago River around 11:45 a.m. today. Chicago police are standing by at 3400 N. Rockwell Street (map), where the river flows past DeVry University, just south of Lane Technical High School. Chicago police are sending one of their Marine Unit boats up the river to attempt a live capture of the cold blooded reptile. Animal Control was called, but they told CPD that they do not respond to alligator calls (really). Instead, some guy called "the Snake Man" from a private reptile handling organization is on his way to assist the police with the situation, but as of 12:28 p.m. nobody has shown up to help the police. We'll update you as/if/when we get more info. UPDATE at 1:30 PM: "The conservation officer came out," said a CPD officer. The critter went into the water, but "tell the conservation officer that the boat alone will scare it out" of the river. What clusterfuss. The Snake Man, according to CPD conversation on the scanner, has assured them that he will get the gator. But at this moment, two hours after the first call, the alligator is still at large in the river. CPD officers shoot dogs often enough in this city, so why couldn't they have just shot this potentially deadly animal and been done with it? Now, at 5:00 p.m., let's look at the incredibly lousy report by NBC5 Chicago, incompetence by the Chicago Police Department, stupidity by Animal Control and more. NBC5's IDIOTIC STORY story goes to hell after the headline, "Hunt For Gator Temporarily Suspended" (emphasis added): "Someone called 911 to report saying they saw a reptile-like creature in the water at around 11:30 a.m., Chicago Police News Affairs said," wrote Andrew Greiner. "A viewer emailed NBC Chicago around the same to report the rumor, but hadn’t seen the creature. Chicago Animal Care and Control Officials are taking over the investigation and members from of the Chicago Herpatological Society are assisting. Experts say its likely someone's pet." I was listening to the police on my scanner. Unlike Andy, I know that Chicago Police News Affairs is full of crap because it's not meant to provide information, it's meant to provide cover for the CPD as a public relations function. I heard the police say that they actually saw the alligator and they continued to keep an eye on it for well over an hour. At least one officer said he was looking at the alligator on the river bank. Graphic: Screen shot of NBC5's stupid alligator report. Click to enlarge. The police actually saw the alligator, or so they said to each other. Later, an officer told dispatch that the creature had gone into the river. So, for Andy to essentially dismiss the gator siting as nothing more than a "rumor" reported by "a viewer" is not only highly inaccurate, it's extremely lazy "journalism." Feeling compelled to run a photo of an alligator, NBC5 ingeniously ran a photo of... of lemurs. Perhaps they couldn't find an alligator photo. Maybe nobody at NBC5 knows what an alligator looks like. Or worse, the editor at NBC5 might actually think that lemurs are a type of alligator. I don't know, of course, but it seemed like a stupid choice for the story. The Chicago Sun-Times had a slightly better report. POLICE INCOMPETENCE plays into this odd story as well. For a considerable amount of time, at least one officer observed the gator on the river bank. I don't blame him for following orders and city policy, but it is incompetent policy that prevented him from shooting the animal. Sometimes, when a police officer is confronted with a threatening dog, the dog is shot and killed. In this case, we had a three-foot long alligator that could easily cause the death of any swimmer in the river. The alligator is not native to Illinois. Why the police on scene did not shoot it is beyond me. As reported, it is now free in the river. Good luck catching it. THE STUPIDITY OF ANIMAL CONTROL is legendary. Essentially, if involves an event with an animal that is small, cute and cuddly they'll respond to it. Remember the cougar that police shot and killed in Roscoe Village two years ago? On April 16, 2008 my report for Chicago Journal's Booster newspaper noted the following: The big cat was first spotted at about 7:30 Monday morning by a teacher at Audubon Elementary School, half a block north of where Chicago police shot and killed the cougar 10 hours later. According to Principal John Price, one of his staff saw the cougar in an alley just east of the school, behind the 3600 block of North Hoyne. "We called 911 at 7:30," Price said, "and about an hour later, three animal control officers came to the school and spoke with us." Price could not say what the animal control officers did after they left Audubon Elementary. On April 23, 2008, I did a followup story for Booster ("The missing part of our cougar story"). It was a quick interview with Mark Rosenthal, Chicago's Animal Care and Control's operations manager. Rosenthal unwittingly painted a picture of a department that is ill prepared and incredibly incompetent: BOOSTER: Witnesses who live one block from the original sighting, and right on the alley where the cougar was shot, say they did not see Animal Care and Control until about 7 p.m., more than an hour after the cougar was shot. ROSENTHAL: We can't knock on every door. BOOSTER: But these people live only one block away. You said your officers knocked on doors for a several-block radius. ROSENTHAL: We can't knock on every door. BOOSTER: Why didn't the police have dart guns for the cougar? Nearly 10 hours passed between the first sighting and shooting. Was there a disconnect between the police department and Animal Care and Control? ROSENTHAL: You'd have to ask [CPD spokeswoman] Monique Bond about that. BOOSTER: Witnesses say they did not see Animal Control people with the police, not until after 7 p.m. ROSENTHAL: If you watch the Fox video you'll see one of our officers there. BOOSTER: I only saw police officers in that video. How many Animal Control officers responded with the police? ROSENTHAL: Just one officer. BOOSTER: What was the officer's name? ROSENTHAL: I don't see what that matters. BOOSTER: I'd like to ask him some questions. ROSENTHAL: I don't know his name. BOOSTER: You only had one officer on the scene of a cougar shooting and you don't know his name? ROSENTHAL: No. BOOSTER: Did he have a dart gun? A tranquilizer gun? ROSENTHAL: No, but his supervisor did. BOOSTER: So, there were two Animal Care and Control officers there? I thought you said there was only one of your officers there. ROSENTHAL: I didn't say that. BOOSTER: You said there was only one there and you don't know his name. How it is you don't know which officer was at such an event? ROSENTHAL: There was one officer. There was also a supervisor. Only supervisors carry tranquilizer dart guns. BOOSTER: OK, so there were only two officers, one being a supervisor with a dart gun. Would be correct to say, then, that the majority of Animal Care and Control officers do not carry dart guns? ROSENTHAL: Only the supervisors are trained to use them. BOOSTER: Would it be correct to say that the majority of your officers are not supervisors, so therefore a minority of your personnel are trained in the use of dart guns? ROSENTHAL: Yes. BOOSTER: At 8:30, Animal Control knew there was a cougar in the area. Why no dragnet other than a few people knocking on some doors? Why weren't the Animal Care and Control people waiting, poised to go with the police? ROSENTHAL: Animal Care and Control is very busy, we respond to lots of calls all over. Dogs, stray deer... BOOSTER: Those are quite different from a cougar. ROSENTHAL: We had several calls during the day. Our people drove up and down the alleys. Cougars are very big, you know, so that makes it very easy for them to hide in places, under things that a lot of animals can't go. BOOSTER: The only calls I'm aware of was the 7:30 call from the teacher and a call just after 5. CPD swooped in almost immediately. Why weren't there more Animal Control people waiting in the neighborhood, able to swoop in with the police? ROSENTHAL: We have a limited number of people to handle lots of calls all over. What the Animal Control officers did today with the cougar was nothing. Think about that. A friggin' cougar - a man killer - on the loose and it took animal control an hour to respond, and then with only three people initially. Many hours later, about 20 cops opened fire on the cornered cat, killing it in a hail of gunfire. As Rosenthal admitted, there was only one Animal Control person present when it ended. A woman who lives nearby said that Animal Control did not come to the site of the cougar's death until about 7 p.m., 90 minutes after it had been killed by police. She wondered what animal control was doing between the time the cat was reported early in the morning until 90 minutes after it was killed. As I said before, they did nothing. With today's alligator incident, Animal Control again did essentially nothing. Granted, the alligator did not pose the same kind of threat to human life that the cougar did, However, it seems that Animal Control is useless for anything other than bothersome dogs, cats, squirrels and racoons. They told CPD that they don't handle alligators. They were not prepared for a cougar two years ago, and they have apparently not prepared themselves for something as relatively simple as a three-foot long alligator.