Thursday, November 01, 2007

Bad PR for officers claims wrong man


John Kass
November 1, 2007

What do you talk about when you're driving your son to prison?

Picture yourself on that highway, cutting through cornfields under blue Iowa skies, your son next to you in the quiet car, your boy about to begin a 5-year sentence for defending himself with one punch against a raging drunk who attacked him first.

What does a father say to the son he knows is innocent? What does a son hear from his dad as he looks out the window?

"There's too much to say," said Bob Mette, father of former Chicago Police Officer Michael Mette, a victim of Iowa. "Mike had his mind set right about where he was going. We talked about the Bears and how terrible they played on Sunday."

You talked about the Bears?

"Yeah, the Bears. And we talked about a lot of things," said Bob Mette. "He was upbeat. His mind was right, focused. We talked about a lot of things. Things you'd talk about with your son."

We left it at that. As a father of two boys, I can only imagine, in some nightmare, about that drive to Iowa. As I heard Bob's voice over the phone on Wednesday afternoon, I thought about the silences in that car of his on Monday morning.

And I thought of all the noise to come over George Ryan, the corrupt and convicted governor who learned Wednesday that he would finally be serving his own prison sentence next week.

You'll hear the caterwauling by his champions and the whining of Ryan's steakhouse pals. And the loud know-it-all whispers that Ryan's buddy, former Gov. Big Jim Thompson, might prevail on President Bush to pardon Ryan, a move that would certainly kill off whatever is left of a wounded Republican Party in Illinois.

Ryan sold his office and got 6 1/2 years and a $20 million free legal defense and all the clout Big Jim could bring. Mike Mette got 5 years for throwing one punch.

I asked his father about the Ryan public relations spin and the anti-death penalty advocates nominating Ryan for a Nobel Prize. All that noise for Ryan, all that silence for Mike.

"Mike's not a politician," said Bob. "Politicians do what politicians do. We all know that, we're from Chicago. But Mike shouldn't be in prison for defending himself."

Yet that's where Mike sits, being processed by the Iowa prison bureaucracy, for the crime of self-defense in Dubuque. Mike had been drinking, his friends had been drinking, and the guys they got into a fight with had been drinking. Mike tried to avoid the fight, one of the drunks of the other party chased him down on the street, cursing, pushing, putting his hands on Mike. He punched the man once and the man went down, striking his head on the concrete.

The victim, with a blood-alcohol level measured at 0.27 and higher, was out of the hospital in four days. But some media reports insist the victim's life was threatened, that he suffered cracked vertebrae. Yes, X-rays show the victim had cracked vertebrae. But not from any fight with Mette. The back injury -- initially thought to be related to the Mette incident -- occurred years before, according to testimony.

That doesn't seem to matter to the spinners, who say I'm not giving you whole story, and the spinning continues, by the prosecutors in Dubuque, and by some in Illinois who hate cops for being cops and so lump Mike in with the rotten ones under investigation in the Chicago Police Department.

The damage had been done. The spinners were successful. The media, by and large, were silent about Mike Mette. There was a piece on WLS-TV, and one paragraph in the Tribune, and my column on Sunday, and Bob Mette watched horrified as his son was virtually ignored or painted with that broad brush being applied to corrupt and violent cops.

"Why didn't Mike become some media cause? Because he got lumped in with all the other stuff about the CPD," said Bob Mette, who joined the Chicago Police Department in 1966, retired as a detective and is now an investigator for the Cook County state's attorney.

There was that other officer who beat a female bartender in a tavern, the video of the beating a YouTube sensation. And another police fight in another tavern. And a conviction of an Outfit-connected Chicago cop.

Most recently, there have been reports of a federal investigation into the highly political unit called Special Operations Section, with allegations of robbery and murder-for-hire, and now the investigation moves upward, toward the highly political police brass.

Mike had nothing to do with any of it. What happened in Iowa occurred long before any of those other incidents came to light. Yet he's been unjustly mixed in that vile public relations stew, spiced with proper public horror toward allegations of police torture by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge.

"It's a bad time to be a Chicago cop. And Mike got lumped in with all that other negative stuff about cops, and some people turned away," Bob said. "It hurts."

I didn't have to ask anymore about that long ride to Iowa with father and son. I could hear it, all of it that mattered, in what Bob Mette didn't say.

----------

jskass@tribune.com

10 comments:

rosco said...

Just SUCKS, plain and simple....

Anonymous said...

For once, and only once, rosco is right. Kass is the only journalist I would buy a drink. Write a book Kass. I will buy 30 copies and give them away as gifts.

Anonymous said...

How come f.o.p. lodge #7 didn't involve itself in this? A pizza party for Mike is one thing, but how about legal and MAYBE moral support?

Anonymous said...

Give NO quarter to Iowa!!

Been There, Done That said...

Buck up and show a little backbone, boys in blue.

5 years state time = MAYBE 20 months in custody.

Big deal.

Take the time as an opportunity to reflect on life, rub elbows with all the many social levels of men you'll have to get along with, learn a little humility, and experience what you have so often been instrumental in imposing on your fellow man.

Learn those things about life that your experiences to date have failed to teach you, one being that, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Another being that EVERYBODY'S shit stinks and EVERYONE is vulnerable to having injustice forced upon them.

You spent your life enforcing laws made by men, enforced by men, interpreted by men and adjudicated by men, all men being imperfect and, thus, all laws being imperfect, so embrace the experience of being on the receiving end of injustice and learn something new to you, ie., humility in the light of unfair, unjust and unpleasant reality.

Plenty of men and women are living with far more unfairness, far more injustice, far more unpleasantness, which you MAY learn to appreciate, IF you choose to.

For the rest of you boys and girls, who are convinced that your OWN shit doesn't EVER stink, pull your heads out of your asses, blow the crap out of your snouts and breath deeply, the aromas will astound you.

Anonymous said...

Been There, Done That said...
Buck up and show a little backbone, boys in blue.

5 years state time = MAYBE 20 months in custody.

Big deal.

Take the time as an opportunity to reflect on life, rub elbows with all the many social levels of men you'll have to get along with, learn a little humility, and experience what you have so often been instrumental in imposing on your fellow man.

Learn those things about life that your experiences to date have failed to teach you, one being that, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Another being that EVERYBODY'S shit stinks and EVERYONE is vulnerable to having injustice forced upon them.

You spent your life enforcing laws made by men, enforced by men, interpreted by men and adjudicated by men, all men being imperfect and, thus, all laws being imperfect, so embrace the experience of being on the receiving end of injustice and learn something new to you, ie., humility in the light of unfair, unjust and unpleasant reality.

Plenty of men and women are living with far more unfairness, far more injustice, far more unpleasantness, which you MAY learn to appreciate, IF you choose to.

For the rest of you boys and girls, who are convinced that your OWN shit doesn't EVER stink, pull your heads out of your asses, blow the crap out of your snouts and breath deeply, the aromas will astound you.

________________________________

You sir have no idea what humility is. Being spoke to like a peasant by the public on a daily basis,on occasion having been spit at, and trying to give a dying person mouth to mouth only to have the person die. Those are some of my examples. You do not have a clue. Mike Mette will carry this cross like a man. We know what shit smells like pal. You are a good example of too much college, not enough high school.

Been There, Done That said...

Spoken like a true-blue, self-centered, holier-than-thou, everybody's-shit-stinks-but-mine, arrogant hero-wannabe.

Like you know anything about me.

Like you know anything about where I've been, what I've done, who I've helped and how I've lived my life.

"Being spoke to like a peasant..."?

Why did you become a cop, pal, just to get your ass kissed on a regular basis?

Why do you wear the badge, carry the gun, assume the authority, and the responsibilities that come with the office..... just so you can feel you've proven yourself to be superior to the rest of the souls born into this world?

Until you've walked the walk, pal, all your talk don't mean shit.

There are many individuals who have done, are doing and will continue to do their best to live up to the standards set by the true heroes of this world, past, present and future, without the need of a badge, gun, or the authority of man-made law.

And true heroes don't toot their own horns, or complain that they're "Being spoke to like a peasant....".

You want to be respected as being better than a 'peasant', don't hold your breath, as, a peasant is closer to God than you'll likely ever be.

As for former officer Mette, if HE considers short time behind the fence to be a cross to bear, welcome to the experiences routinely imposed on many men and women of greater character and more sincere humility than most of those individuals who put them there.

You sound like you could use some in-custody time for reflection yourself.

Anonymous said...

As a resident of Dubuque, IA I can assure you that Mike does have the support of MANY of us in Dubuque County who deal with our local "prosecutors" and the political atmosphere in this county. Dubuque is and always has been a "who you know" kind of town, sad- but ultimately true! My heart sincerely goes out to Mike and his family and I can only say that I hope someone up above looks down on him and brings him some justice...

Anonymous said...

I SAY WE GATHER AS MANY CPD OFFICERS AND WHITE SHIRTS AND GO TO IOWA---WILL DO IT ON THANKSGIVING!!

LETS FREE!!! METTE!!

WE CAN GO TO THE JUDGE'S HOUSE AND PROTEST!!!

Anonymous said...

Them Iowa farmboy cops will kick your city boy fat asses anytime! Stay out of the country.

Please keep in mind that this is an open blog
that can and is read by people other than Chicago Police Officers.