Brotherhood of Corruption: A Cop Breaks the Silence on Police Abuse, Brutality, and Racial Profilingby Juan Antonio Juarez
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A former Chicago cop exposes shocking truths about the abuses of power within the city's police department in this memoir of violence, drugs, and men with badges. Juarez becomes a police officer because he wants to make a difference in gang-infested neighborhoods; but, as this book reveals, he ends up a corrupt member of the most powerful gang of all-the Chicago police force. Juarez shares the horrific indiscretions he witnessed during his seven years of service, from the sexually predatory officer, "X", who routinely stops beautiful women for made-up traffic offenses and flirts with domestic violence victims, to sadistic Locallo, known on the streets as Locoman, who routinely stops gang members and beats them senseless. Working as a narcotics officer, Juarez begins to join his fellow officers in crossing the line between cop and criminal, as he takes advantage of his position and also becomes a participant in a system of racial profiling legitimized by the war on drugs. Ultimately, as Juarez discusses, his conscience gets the better of him and he tries to reform, only to be brought down by his own excesses. From the perspective of an insider, he tells of widespread abuses of power, random acts of brutality, and the code of silence that keeps law enforcers untouchable.
About the Author:
Juan Antonio Juarez was a Chicago police officer for seven years, has written for the Chicago Reader, and is now a middle school teacher working with at-risk students. He lives in Monterey, California.
"Gripping page-turner." —NEA Today
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Brotherhood of Corruption
A Cop Breaks the Silence on Police Abuse, Brutality, and Racial Profiling
By Juan Antonio Juarez
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2004 Juan Antonio Juarez
All rights reserved.
A TASTE OF AUTHORITY
"Hey, motherfucker! Open the goddamn door before I kick it in!" Steve bellowed, bringing the ropelike vein in his neck to life as his face turned crimson. "I'm gonna give you 'bout two seconds."
The pounding hard-core punk music rattled Steve and shook the door as we stood on the front porch of 13 — North Greenview Avenue for five minutes ringing the bell. We'd been called to a noise disturbance; the complainant was a neighbor. It was clear that this was a bona fide incident and should be settled with a simple radio code of 4 (noise disturbance) — either Paul (peace restored) or Frank (some other police action taken). At least that's what I'd learned at the academy.
"Hey!" yelled Steve. "Open this motherfuckin' door!"
This is what other cops loved about Steve; he didn't take shit from anyone. He was a cop's cop — hardworking and diligent with a penchant for aggressiveness. My father had met him when they worked the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) Public Housing North detail in the 1980s. Over the years they kept in touch. When I got out of the police academy, my father pulled some strings to get me assigned to the 14th District with Steve as field training officer (FTO). He was a Caucasian veteran of three decades. In his mid-fifties and short, he nonetheless had a vice-grip handshake and a jawline that perfectly matched his sharp military haircut. I was to pull on his coattails for the next sixty days.
Hundreds of cops had learned from him, and many adopted his police mentality. "If you wanna be a good cop," my father told me, "you gotta have a great FTO." I considered myself lucky and was excited to have such a respected elder showing me the ropes.
Steve brought his knee up to his chest and thrust his foot into the door just as it began to open. The force of his foot meeting the door sent the person inside flying back about ten feet, landing on his ass.
"Hey, stupid! I'm a cop!" Steve straddled the chest of this scrawny white kid as soon as the door was open. "You do what I say, when I say! Understand!" The kid, dazed and trying to recover from the impact of the door, had a gash on his forehead. There was blood streaming down the bridge of his nose as he looked up at Steve. I remained standing at the threshold, frozen by the sudden and bloody violence, but the mixture of Steve's power and authority sent a thrill down my spine.
"Can you fuckin' hear me?" Steve demanded, grabbing a fistful of the kid's long brown hair. "Or is the music too fuckin' loud? Cuz it is to me!" The kid's face was a blur as Steve yanked his hair and shook his head as if it were a toy in the jaws of a rottweiler. Meanwhile, the blood kept pouring from the kid's forehead.
"I can hear you. I can hear you," the kid pleaded. "Let go of my hair. C'mon man, let go of my hair."
This kid was what Steve referred to as an "urban pioneer." These kids had money, or at least their parents did, but chose to live in the sketchy parts of Chicago where drugs, gangs, violence, poverty, and cheap rents flourish. Steve didn't care for these types at all. "These kids," he had told me on the way to the call, "are friggin' slackers. Who the fuck do they think they are? They come to live in the shit; they deserve to be treated like shit. Their parents are loaded, so they can afford to be art fucks. Escaping responsibility, if you ask me. They remind me of those friggin' long-haired hippies. I was at the convention in '68. I know how to handle these spineless twats."
The surrounding neighborhood — Wicker Park, once primarily a poor, working-class Puerto Rican and Mexican neighborhood — was changing. A number of street gangs still clung to it, but gentrification was slowly sweeping them away — boarded-up brownstones with graffiti-covered exteriors were being replaced by rapidly constructed three-story single-family houses. Neighborhood families were being priced out as young professionals and "urban pioneers" staked out new territory. Times were changing, but in Steve's mind this kid, and those like him, represented the past — antiauthority, rebellious, and confrontational, just like the youth of the late 1960s and early '70s.
Steve was a stubborn bulldog of a man. Every call was calculated and solved before we arrived at the scene. He surrendered none of what he considered his personal space, and he was never one to back down or change his opinions. Once determined, he didn't bend.
"You need to turn this shit down!" Steve hollered while he sat on the kid's chest, pinning his arms to the ground. "Your fuckin' neighbor is complainin' 'bout this shit! Where you think you're at anyway?" Steve resumed pulling the kid's hair.
"Man, all you had to do was ask!" the kid shot back. "Get off me, and I'll turn it down!" Still glaring at him, Steve relented, released his hair, and got off his chest. I cautiously crossed the threshold, entered the apartment, and peered over Steve's shoulder as this sticklike kid lifted himself from the ground. Grabbing a T-shirt from the couch, he tried to slow the flow of the blood rushing from his forehead. He walked over to the receiver and lowered the volume.
"Listen! If we hafta come back here, you're gonna spend the night in jail. I'm sure the brothers would love to get their hands on a lily-white ass like yours. So don't make us come back. If you do, you'll be sorry! Understand?"
"What don't you fuckin' understand?"
"I don't think it's against the law —"
"Oh! Now you're gonna fuckin' tell me 'bout the law!" Steve erupted. "See! That's the fuckin' problem — you're thinking!" Steve jabbed a finger into the kid's temple. "Did I ask you to think?" The kid stood silent, cemented to the spot, only flinching with each prod that punctuated Steve's demands. "Do yourself a favor and don't fuckin' think! Don't make us come back! Am I clear?"
"What about my door?" the kid asked meekly. The hinges were almost torn out.
That was enough for Steve. "You just earned yourself a ticket to jail, asshole!" He whipped out his handcuffs so fast the kid was stunned. "Sounds like your fuckin' problem. Here's some advice — don't stand in front of flying doors." And with that, we left, my first arrest in tow.
As we walked back to the squad car, Steve said, "Code that out, rookie."
I didn't know the code for that one. It wasn't a 4 — Paul or Frank — that much was sure. Wracking my brain for an appropriate response, I asked timidly, "What code do I use?"
"Tell 'em we're coming in with one arrest!" Steve instructed. Knowing he was amped up from his exchange with the kid, I wasn't about to ask him another question, but I still had no idea what the charge would be.
"What about medical attention for that kid?" I asked. I was concerned about following the protocol that required hospitalization for arrestees who were injured.
"Fuck 'em, damn hippie," Steve answered. "He deserved it."
At the station I had to ask him about the charge again once we started to fill out the paperwork. Taken aback by my naïveté, Steve gave me a look of disgust as he replied sarcastically, "Disorderly conduct. Works all the time." Then he asked, "You learn anything back there, kid?"
I had. The power, fury, and authority he had demonstrated had enthralled me. But deep down I knew something was wrong. Yet I also knew I didn't have the balls to say anything. The thought of beginning my police career by making waves, and the anxiety this provoked, silenced the little voice in the back of my head. I wanted to be a cop. My desire to join the brotherhood, to be accepted into the ranks, was greater than my need to tell the truth. Instead, I just nodded enthusiastically, "Yes, sir!"
This was my first day as a Chicago police officer.CHAPTER 2
I grew up near Ashland and Addison on the west end of Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood during the mid-1970s. It wasn't the yuppie enclave it is today, but it wasn't a ghetto area either. Instead, it was a typical working-class neighborhood filled with tough, blue-collar families.
Arriving from Mexico in 1958, my father, Juan Manuel Juarez, already had a decent command of English. He worked his way up to production manager at a mail-order wholesale company called A. C. McClurg. They sold everything under the sun, including jewelry, books, cosmetics, and automotive tools. With his athletic figure, jet-black hair, and prominent Aztecan features, my father was an exotic foreigner who took pride in his appearance. The black-framed glasses perched upon his aquiline nose made him look scholarly, and, though he didn't get beyond the eleventh grade in Mexico, he was comfortable with his intellect. He exuded confidence.
In 1961 he met my mother, Cecelia Koenig, where he worked. She was a German American second-generation Chicagoan. He was enamored of her blue eyes, long dark hair, and white skin. And she was swept off her feet by this brown-skinned, determined, and compassionate foreigner. They married in March 1962 and immediately began having kids. My oldest sister, Noreen, was conceived before my parents were married. She was born in October 1962. Another sister, Marie, followed in January 1964. Two years later in August, I entered the world and then, before the decade ended, my youngest sister, Lee, rounded out the family in March 1969.
My father was dedicated to his family. He strove to support us financially, and I believe he felt a great sense of accomplishment in being able to do so. He always surprised us with little trinkets — bubblegum-machine jewelry and dime-store toys — intending, I think, to demonstrate his love through these gifts. But emotionally he kept us at a distance. My father defined himself by what he did, and constant work was what he did. He was driven by the desire to prosper. He held down two jobs to support his growing family while attending English classes in his spare time, and he wasn't home very often. This placed the responsibility of child-rearing squarely on my mother's shoulders.
My mother, though a very busy homemaker, constantly fed our imaginations by reading to us. She chose whimsical titles, such as books by Dr. Seuss, adventure stories such as Gulliver's Travels and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and a litany of other books that opened us up to new worlds. She taught us how to read and write before we entered school. She seemed content in her role as our sole nurturer; she showered us with all the love and attention that my father couldn't provide. My love of adventure began with my mother.
She enjoyed toting us around the city with her sister and her female friends who also had kids. She took us to museums, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and neighborhood fire stations. She also took us to more out-of-the-way places, such as Piper's Alley and the Billy Goat Tavern, a cool restaurant mired in the green-lighted underbelly of Lower Wacker Drive where downtown workers ate their lunches. For me, the best part of these forays wasn't where we went, but how we got there. Public transportation was our ticket to adventure. Descending into the dark, cavernous tunnels of the subway system and exiting into sunshine and the chaos of downtown made my head spin. My mother made sure to provide this stimulation in our lives.
Every summer my father would take off work for two weeks to take the family on a road trip. We'd pile into the Vista Cruiser station wagon and travel to exotic places such as the Badlands in South Dakota, the Everglades in Florida, and the Merrimac Caverns in Missouri. Together my parents did incredible things to open our eyes to the world around us.
My father had one sister, Julia, who had three kids of her own. They were all a bit older than I was; they were closer to the ages of my sisters Noreen and Marie. My mother's sister, Pam, had seven kids. The oldest one, Ronnie, was my age, and we were more than a handful at family events. The connections between our families were strengthened by four doting grandparents, and both sides of my family got along amazingly well considering they came from vastly different cultures. Holidays, birthdays, summer picnics, and occasional weekends were times of great celebration. Our extended families would join together in the festivities and the kids would eat and play until we fell down from exhaustion.
But then things started to change. My parents began to have frequent heated disagreements. I was six and had no idea what these were about, but I could feel the hostility as angry words flew around me. The temperature of my family cooled. One Saturday morning Lee and I were home with our parents while Noreen and Marie were at Bible class. My mother had prepared scrambled eggs for all of us. We sat down to eat and she must have forgotten about the tortillas she had been warming on the stove. I saw flames in the reflection of the refrigerator and so did my father. The burning smell alerted my mother and she ran into the kitchen to extinguish the flames while my father sat eating his eggs. He didn't lift a finger to help her. As soon as she put the fire out and returned to the table, my father took his plate of eggs and threw it across the table into my mother's face. Then he sprang up, slamming his chair into the wall, and charged at her.
"You stupid fool!" he yelled as he pulled her hair. She feebly defended herself with weak punches. "You could have burned down the house!" He continued beating her.
Lee and I didn't want to see our mother get the shit kicked out of her. But we were afraid for our safety, wondering if our father would turn on us after he was through with her. We got up and ran into the closet of the laundry room, praying to God that the fighting would stop.
From that day on, our happy Saturday mornings were replaced by fear and anticipation of the next incident of abuse. Hiding in the closet with Lee became as much a part of my life as my parents' fights. We wouldn't come out of the closet until we heard a door slam — a signal that my father had left the house. We'd come out to find my mom crumpled on the couch, her tears mixed with blood. We knew we couldn't help her, but we'd try anyway by hugging her and trying to make her stop crying. "I'm OK," she'd say, sobbing into our necks as she hugged us. Then we'd all cry together.
During some of their fights, I'd try to be gallant and protect my mother by clinging to my father's leg. He would continue punching my mother while I desperately clung to him. I was useless.
Why wasn't my mother doing more to protect herself? I felt my resentment growing in two directions: toward my father for beating my mother and toward my mother for letting him. The greatest grudge, though, I saved for myself. I was ashamed of my inability to stop their constant fighting. I wondered if anyone could.
My mother's side of the family shied away, not wanting to get involved in the domestic disputes. My father's family did the same. Nobody was there to protect us from the hellish turn our lives had taken.
I remember the police coming to our house as my parents screamed at the top of their lungs at each other. All the cops did was tell my father he had to leave the house until he cooled off. That would only last a few hours. When even the cops proved ineffective, my mother found her own solution. She'd go out at night and get plastered.
My parents separated a few months after I turned seven. They took turns caring for us. One month my mother would be at the house taking care of us while my father roomed at the YMCA; the next month my father took over while my mother stayed at a friend's house. It went on like this for several months. Meanwhile, I felt like an emotional ping-pong ball. Both parents spoke poorly of each other when all I wanted them to do — all I needed them to do — was get over their differences so we could be a family again.
Excerpted from Brotherhood of Corruption by Juan Antonio Juarez. Copyright © 2004 Juan Antonio Juarez. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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Meet the Author
Juan Antonio Juarez was a Chicago police officer for seven years, has written for the Chicago Reader, and is now a middle school teacher working with at-risk students.
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This book tells tales of truth that every kid growing up in the streets of Chicago already knew, since many have suffered the same experiences the author reveals to the reader. As a life-long resident of Chicago, I have seen many of my friends (and some of my family) come face to face with police brutality and profiling. It leaves one feeling helpless to change the status quo: who would listen to street kids and believe their stories? Who would have the power to change how things operate in the police department, even if they believed the stories? Who would care? I am thrilled that one cop finally came forward to put the truth on the line for the world to see. Now what? Maybe now the good cops will prevail and the bad cops will not. Maybe.
I read this book for a class. I am not much of a reader but I couldn't put the book down. I read some reviews on amazon on this book and how people thought Juan Juarez was just as quilty as all the other police offiers and he was just looking to make money on writing about it because he got caught. I don't fully agree with that. People change and yes he got caught up with some of the bad cops in the department and he used his power to get what he wanted. Juan opened up to the people who wanted to hear his story, he didn't keep hush about it after he got caught. He was a good person trying to make something of himself, in the process he took a detour and got a job. He eventually got to where he needs to be and I am happy for him. Everyone starts somewhere whether being good or bad. He lived and learned and is living a better life. Good for him. I enjoyed the reading.
Juan was pretty honest about not being a super cop. My interpretation was that he blamed no one but him self and from other books I've read the system is VERY corrupt, violent and protective of ONLY their own in every city. Many other authors corroborate Juan Juarez's account of drug busts and skate assignments, corruption and brutal violence. "Anonymous" should have the courage to put his real name to the review. I think the review that he/she wrote is fiction or they would have included their name.
This book should be listed under FICTION. Juan buoyed himself up to be s supercop brought down by the system. This is fantasy. He only spend a year in a beat car and was described (at best) by his co-workers as lazy and uninspired. His connections got him to the Narcotics Section, where his terrible work ethic, immaturity, and disdain for his fellow officers was apparent from day one. He was tolerated there, mainly because of respect for the family members he had on the police department (including father, step-mother and cousin). He fed upon the system and used it to his every advantage. It is fiction for him to say that the system corrupted him. He came to us corrupt and just got worse.