‘He only wanted another drink.”
Imagine being the lawyer representing Chicago Police Officer Anthony G. Abbate and having to utter that opening remark in court regarding your client.
It’s the latest black eye for our our image as the city where the truly corrupt can set up housekeeping and enjoy privileges usually reserved for immune diplomats.
As you probably know by now, Abbate is the 6-foot-1, 230-pound, highly-inebriated cop seen in a Jesse’s Shortstop Inn surveillance video pummeling a defenseless 115-pound female bartender to prove that “nobody tells me what to do.”
Expending more energy than he probably ever has on duty, he punches himself into a much delayed legal action, possible firing, and a 2-5 year prison term.
By the time this commentary hits print, however, the almost surreal savagery displayed in those 30 seconds will have already begun to lose its initial impact.
“Well, there’s that woman getting knocked around again. Do you guys serve croissants?”
They should not. There are many messages that can be absorbed from this video, which, viewed through a slightly more discernible eye, has opened up an ugly realization about society that goes beyond some drunk idiot and his male ego. Allow me to enumerate them:
Though distracted by the events occurring just behind the bartender’s counter, it’s hard to view the video without asking why no one tried to intercede or call for help. Even in street fights involving rival gangs there is some attempt to separate combatants. You’d think someone’s conscience would have crept up and said, “Man, this big, burly dude is jumping on this woman half his size. Maybe I should call someone.”
According to reports, most of the people in the bar knew he was a cop. Maybe they were intimidated by his authority. Maybe they felt he had a justifiable reason and didn’t want to step in for fear of being prosecuted along with her. Whatever the reason, this is the most shocking aspect of the video for me.
The fact that I can go into a bar, get pummeled by a man in uniform and nobody even questions it because “he’s a cop and I’m probably a perp” is truly unnerving. If a pretty, petite Polish girl can’t get help, I wouldn’t stand a chance, not even with a whimpering “No mas!”
Had this video not surfaced a month after the assault, top cop Abbate would never have been prosecuted. According to sources, at least one officer was involved in a cover-up attempt at the department, offering bribes to silence both Katherine the bartender and the owner of Jesse’s. If this is true, they were obstructing justice and aiding and “Abbating.” Clearly this type of violence while intoxicated is nothing new to him. He only got caught “this time.” But what about all the other police brutality cases (some of them on the West Side) that are reported but never followed through to legal action? When will someone begin to delve deeper into these “unconfirmed reports” and actually look into this type of misuse of power?
Finally, what does all this mean to the black community? I have not conducted an independent poll of African-Americans on either the West or South sides, but if I were a betting man, I would guess that an officer behaving in such an insubordinate fashion and still being supported by his fellow officers probably comes as less of a shock to them than anyone else. We are the people who virtually coined the phrase “racial profiling,” the people who know who Rodney King is, even if we were born after 1992, and also the people who understand the potential repercussions of walking in the wrong community at the wrong time of day.
Abbate’s lawyer will probably have a firm named after him if Abbate beats the rap. Each officer will probably thank him personally.