Public housing's legacy: Police robbing people

June 21, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

Joe Loudd got a sinking feeling when he walked into the lobby of Chicago's Stateway Gardens public housing building and saw some angry men with guns.

"I thought: 'Uh-oh, I'm gonna be robbed for sure.' And that wasn't good because I was carrying my rent money and my electric bill money."

Then Loudd, 55, discovered that the men with guns weren't pulling a heist.

TC To his momentary relief, they were Chicago Housing Authority cops who said they were stopping visitors to the building who might be looking to buy drugs.

Loudd, who lives in a nearby CHA senior citizens building on disability payments ("I got a metal plate in my neck"), was there to visit friends.

"Soon as I walk in, they yell at me to get on my knees and face the wall. Other people came in, they did the same thing. We're all kneeling down looking at the wall.

"This one policeman, he was going down the line asking people how much money we had.

"If you had $40, he said he'd take a percentage. Then I thought: 'Uh-oh, I'm being robbed after all.'

"When he got to me, he asks me to take my money out. I had the $170 that I got earlier from the currency exchange.

"So this policeman says he'll take $20 of it. I didn't hand it over right away because I was thinking about what I should do.

"That got him mad, and he snatched the whole $170. Oh, he was really mad at people. He's cursing, and hollerin' and hitting people's faces with his hand and his gun and some kind of nightstick. He drew blood from one guy's eye.

"He had so many people there that he couldn't keep track of them. He would look one way, and somebody would run up to the stairs. So he chased them, and then some other people would run away.

"But I didn't run. He had my rent money, and I wasn't gonna leave without it.

"I kept asking him for my money back. And he keeps calling me 'Pops' cause I got gray hair and saying he's doing this 'cause we're there to buy drugs. But he wasn't doing nothing about drugs. He was just taking money from people.

"I'm there kneeling for about an hour when some more of them CHA police came with a paddy wagon and haul us to the CHA station in the Robert Taylor Homes.

"Soon as we get there, I ask for my money back. They got us all handcuffed together and sitting on these benches, and I'm raising my hand like a school kid and saying, 'Hey, how come that guy took my rent money?'

"The watch commander walks by, and I start telling him about my $170. I mean, I was desperate. But the cops who arrested us told me to shut up.

"But I must have done some good because the guy who took our money, he started giving some of it back to people.

"He gets to me, and he hands me $10. I said: 'Hey, you take $170 from me, and now you want to give me $10? What kind of a deal is that?'

"So he gives me another $10. And he acted like he was doing me a big favor.

"Now I'm out $150, and I wasn't going to shut my mouth and I'm complaining to everybody who walks by. After about an hour, this same policeman puts me in another room where I was by myself but he could see me. And I sat there for maybe five hours.

"But he was mad because of all the complaining I did and for talking to his watch commander. He comes over to me and he writes down my name and my address and he says: 'I'm gonna be seeing you later.'

"Sounded like a threat to me.

"Then they finally take us to the regular Chicago police station on 51st Street and they charged us with trespassing. We were never charged with anything had to do with drugs. Just trespassing, and that's a misdemeanor.

"But I don't think they was looking for drugs. I think they was looking for money for themselves. And that one policeman, he got $150 of my money, and I'm not going to let that pass.

"The way he was sticking that gun 'longside my head, I consider it armed robbery.

"I'd have been better off if they were regular robbers because with regular robbers, I wouldn't have had to spend the whole night kneeling in that lobby and sitting around the police station.

"So I'm not taking it. That cop wasn't too smart. I got his name and his badge number, and I made a complaint. Those other people were afraid, and didn't want to say anything, but uh-uh, I want my $150 back. I can't even buy food now or pay my rent."

The deputy chief of the CHA confirmed that Loudd filed a theft complaint against one of his cops, and it is being investigated.

He said: "We do hear these things often. But I don't think we've ever substantiated one of these cases."

Well, maybe if they substantiated even one case, they might not be hearing about others that often.

And when a guy figures he's better off running into robbers than CHA cops, it was probably time for the federal government to take over Chicago's public housing.

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