One of the things I love about this gig is watching a politician or public official evolve in wholly unexpected ways. It’s rare, but it does happen. To wit, Auroran Barbara Hernandez is suddenly showing some real State Rep promise.
Conversely, aside from enduring all those family court horror stories, one of the worst things about journalism is when someone you hold in the highest esteem proves they’re not nearly the person you thought they were. Sadly, that disappointing phenomenon takes place far more often.
And it just happened again.
You see, I thought the whole Aurora Wayside Ministries sex offender issue had been somewhat resolved, but that’s clearly not the case.
For those who aren’t aware of the story, in June, the City of Aurora determined the 19 sex offenders residing at Wayside were in violation of a State law prohibiting them from living within 500 feet of a playground, and the Aurora Police moved to evict them.
The residents responded by filing a federal lawsuit claiming Aurora installed new playground equipment in McCarty Park to artificially shorten the distance between the two facilities, the statute doesn’t begin to explain how that 500 feet should be measured, and it doesn’t define exactly what a playground is, either.
But that suit was dropped after the City and Wayside seemed to arrive at some sort of détente.
So, this journalist was rather surprised when, at 7:30 a.m. on December 13, the Aurora Police showed up at Wayside, called the 19 men into a room one-by-one, and served them papers declaring they had 30 days to leave.
That’s quite the original Christmas present, isn’t it?
And therein lies my first problem with APD Chief Kristen Ziman. If you’re going to blatantly avail yourself of the intimidation route, why not just burst into the facility at 4 a.m., drag the men out of bed, interrogate them for a few hours, and then kick them out of the building in their underwear.
Put more simply, there had to be a better way to do this.
I’m sure the residents’ attorneys would’ve been more than happy to work out a way to better serve the paperwork. Regardless of anything they’ve done, these men are human beings and they deserve to be treated as such.
But the worst part about this absurd tactic that’s more than a little reminiscent of the late 30s, is, instead of making the City safer, this expulsion puts it at a far greater risk.
First, this 500-foot-from-a-playground law is just another sad example of Illinois legislators at their absolute worst. Pedophiles don’t snatch children from a playground, they “groom” those they already know. Every study on the planet stipulates that 85 to 90 percent of child sexual offenses are committed by a family member, a relative, or a family friend.
So, the park issue is complete BS and Chief Ziman bleepin’ knows it. Stranger danger is, and always has been, a myth.
Second, having these men live under the watchful eye of a well-supervised ministry is, literally, one of those too-rare real-life best-case scenarios. I’m not saying there’s no chance they’ll reoffend, but it’s abundantly clear they’re not about to march over to McCarty Park to wreak any havoc, either.
Third, if these men are finally removed (they’ve filed another lawsuit to stop the process), they’ll essentially become homeless, and since shelters won’t take sex offenders, that means 19 of them will be wandering the streets of Aurora unsupervised. And Chief Ziman is well aware of that, too.
That said, I can still hear some of y’all saying, “But Jeff! The law is the law and the APD has to enforce the law,” to which I would reply, “horse excrement.”
Though they’ll never admit it, virtually all Illinois law enforcement officers exercise a discretion that includes completely ignoring the law when it suits them or the entity for whom they toil.
For example, Aurora is a “Welcoming City” which means the police won’t ask about anyone’s immigration status for any reason. Why? Because Aurora is 44 percent Hispanic and any mayor who pressed this issue wouldn’t be mayor for very long. It’s called “a lack of enforcement based upon political expediency.”
Put more simply, Hispanics have more clout than sex offenders.
And when was the last time the APD raided your March Madness office pool? I bet (pun intended) the officers run one themselves, despite unsanctioned gambling being patently illegal. The APD stops you for going one mile over the speed limit, too, right?
But the biggest irony in this beyond blatantly bad APD move is this. Chief Ziman is quite open about being gay and often notes her significant other is the esteemed Kane County Child Investigator Chris Tunney. And the fact that nobody bats an eyelash over this demonstrates that society actually might harbor some redeeming qualities after all.
But that wasn’t always the case.
There was a thinly veiled Illinois ordinance on the books as late as 1984 that criminalized any public display of affection between gay couples. And while Illinois dispensed with that discriminatory law in 1984, despite a Supreme Court ruling to the contrary, 13 states maintain statutes that prohibit homosexual behavior.
Let’s just say, were I the Chief and Officer Tunney, I wouldn’t be heading down to a Mardi Gras celebration anytime soon. The law should always be enforced, right?
But while Louisiana insists on occasionally enforcing those laws, the other 12 states generally don’t because the police apply an astute discretion by ignoring bad statutes. And that’s exactly the kind of forward thinking the Aurora Police should’ve applied to the men at the Wayside Ministry.
So, it completely baffles me as to how the Chief, of all people, is so willing to invoke an utterly bogus, unconstitutional, and discriminatory law that makes Aurora far less safe.
Shame on you Kristen Ziman.