Selle: Jussie Smollett case proves that when cops do their job well, they still take heat

Selle: Jussie Smollett case proves that when cops do their job well, they still take heat
Actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Court building after all charges were dropped in his disorderly conduct case on Tuesday, March 26, 2019. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune) (Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune)

Further evidence some of us are living in an alternative universe: The argument attorneys for actor Jussie Smollett are trying to peddle.

As we all know, Chicago police determined the former cast member of “Empire” filed a false police report claiming he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. The city wants Smollett to pay for costs spent on the probe.

But according to the actor’s legal team, Smollett shouldn’t have to pay the more than $130,000 in overtime costs racked up in the weeks-long case because investigators did their job too well in ferreting out the truth. This has to be the first time in a while that Chicago police have received a compliment on their investigative techniques, albeit a backhanded one.

This would be comical except Smollett’s attorneys are serious, according to media reports from the court filings last week. While they might not expect police to do their jobs well, most of us expect diligent investigations without fear or favor in seeking out truth and justice.

Chicago PD did its job. It would be like Lake County police departments skipping the heavy lifting and ignoring clues to bring a suspect to justice. Or as some say in the news business: Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Lake County police agencies followed the facts in the case of Fox Lake Police Lt. Joseph Gliniewicz just over four years ago this month. The veteran policeman was found dead in a wooded area in the village. It was originally believed he was killed by three men while in the line of duty.

After two months of dogged investigative work, those involved in the case eventually determined Gliniewicz committed suicide because he had been skimming money from a police department fund. It was a hard decision to come to after the cop known as “G.I. Joe” had been elevated to icon status among west county law enforcement units.

But the facts led investigators to no other conclusion. His widow, Melodie, since has been charged as part of her husband’s scheme. The case continues to wend its way through the Lake County court system since she was accused of unlawful use of charitable funds, conspiracy and money laundering.

As Lake County law enforcement did in the Gliniewicz matter, Chicago PD followed the trail after young Smollett filed the report. In it, he claimed he was the victim of the early morning attack in the dead of winter by two individuals who yelled epithets at him, threw bleach on him and placed a small noose around his neck.

Finishing their investigation, police then charged him with making up the entire scene, alleging he hired two men to stage the attack. Until that time, though, Smollett also was a hero and victim in the eyes of many.

If Chicago police hadn’t determined he allegedly staged the attack, investigators would have been skewered from here to Hollywood. Something that comedian Dave Chapelle pointed out in his now-streaming Netflix special, “Sticks & Stones."

In it, he does a humorous — no, hilarious — bit about “Juicy Smolay,” a French actor attacked in Chicago. It’s biting, and a lot of progressives are none too happy at Chapelle’s humor on this subject and others he touches on. Surely, he doesn’t care.

Chicago police and taxpayers care, though. Investigators logged upward of 2,000 hours in overtime following clues, tracking down the two phony attackers, viewing hours and hours of videotape. They did what they get paid to do.

Then, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against the actor. His lawyers maintain Smollett had no way of knowing police would really investigate the charges he made to the extent they did.

They seek to blame the cops for doing their jobs and punish them for doing a good bit of police work. In the end, the cops still take the heat.

Charles Selle is a former News-Sun reporter, political editor and editor.

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