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Mike Garner Case Deserve Better

IPSN August 28, 1997

Certainly, every police officer who has worked vice, narcotics or undercover can sympathize with the circumstances involved in the murder of Police Officer Michael Garner and the subsequent plight of his family.
Sgt. Garner, 48, was shot to death on July 12 in West Englewood in Chicago in an altercation with an alleged drug dealer.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that.
The Chicago Police Department hierarchy and the city’s politicos have made a strong case explaining why the sergeant should not receive benefits due officers killed in the line of duty, although he is receiving all other benefits that he has earned.
This is a complicated case but it deserves careful consideration and review.
It is somewhat surprising, though, that the one attorney who has decided to champion the executed police officer’s case is a man who himself is a symbol of the racial strife that nearly destroyed Chicago in the 1980s, and who is reputedly associated with some of the very people most Chicago police officers might only want to meet while on duty and with guns drawn.
Nonetheless, Edward R. Vrdolyak represents the Garner family, obviously torn by grief over the loss of this until now decorated and respected police officer.
And, one day after he was identified as the Garner family lawyer, Vrdolyak began in his usual style of ambulance chasing rhetorical legal verbiage. Eddie knows well how to make media news.
The Chicago Police Department has been hesitant to provide all the details involved in the Garner slaying, frankly because some of the circumstances have raised eyebrows — but the fact is the officer is dead and cannot defend his actions.
Garner was sitting in a car allegedly drinking with another woman (according to police brass) in front of a bar at 6915 S. Western Ave., when a man drove up next to them and tried to sell them drugs. The woman had met Garner for drinks at the lounge, and had gone with him to his car.
Instead of arresting the drug dealer immediately, he drove off with the woman, and returned to the very same spot several minutes later.
The alleged drug dealer drove up to the car again, and this time demanded to know who Garner was. Garner and the man each stepped out of their cars and started to wrestle. Guns discharged and Garner was killed.
Was he undercover or not is besides the point. Undercover cops just don’t simply punch in and punch out, coming and going from undercover work. It is a lifestyle and requires 24 hour-a-day vigilance with the subjects and environment where they work. They live with the dredges they deal with on an ongoing basis.
Whether or not Garner was engaged in an interview or simply establishing a contact is something that should be taken into consideration. Although the Chicago Police Department has said his actions were outside of his normal duties, and he would have been brought up for charges had he lived. Michael Garner is not around to refute the administration’s assertions.
Knowing the tough circumstances that undercover cops faces, we should always give them the benefit of the doubt in circumstances like this. An undercover cop lost his life.
Obviously, his family deserves to have questions answered regarding the issue of receiving death in the line of duty benefits, which have been denied him.
But hiring Fast Eddie Vrdolyak? This might not be the best choice.
Associating with the likes of Vrdolyak certainly doesn’t help the Garner case.
But it does help Vrdolyak, whose image is scarred by controversy, sleazoid killers and crooked cops.
The Garner family has benefits coming and deserve the best representation they can get. Obviously their judgement is impaired under the trying circumstances of their loss. But Vrdolyak’s involvement sends out the wrong signal on this case. He is moving for what is best for “Fast Eddie.” We support the Garner family. We sympathize with their position. They should get all benefits — period.
Vrdolyak is no friend of the Chicago street cop.
Of course, one might have thought that the Fraternal Order of Police would step up to the plate and help. But they have been silent on this. Or, were they the ones who recommended Vrdolyak?
Vrdolyak’s associations, his political record of exploiting racism and racial divisions in his election campaigns over the years, his ties to mobbed up Cicero, and his refusal to answer questions about his ties to outfit people and organized crime figures like the late Joe Ferriola leave much to be desired.

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IPSN  1997-2006 All Rights reserved. Not for republication on the internet without permission.