It happened on October 20, 2014. A white Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, pumped 16 bullets into the body of Laquan McDonald, a 17 year-old black male, in 15 seconds. Even while he was on the ground dying the officer kept shooting. This was a police execution! Yet, so many Americans (of all backgrounds, maybe except blacks) ask – why don’t black people trust the police more? There are also other important questions to be addressed. The history of police abuse of blacks are well known. What is less well known, or accepted, is that there are consequences of the police treatment of blacks to our society; those consequences take many forms. A lack of trust is only one such consequence. Here are just a few of the many salient questions to be addressed about the behavior of police officers towards blacks:
- What are the reasons why 99 percent of the time white police officers are allowed to commit murder against Black people without any personal or professional consequences?
- How many officers who have killed innocent black men are still in their police uniforms today?
- Had not the video existed at all, and word of the video leaked, would officer Van Dyke ever have been charged in this crime?
- Why wasn’t this officer charged with murder a year ago?
- After first seeing the video, was officer Van Dyke even reprimanded? Why was he still on the force?
- Why did it take so long for the City of Chicago to take any action in this matter?
- For those who wonder why so many black people (and men in particular) have no confidence in the police, or in the judicial system, it is exactly because they have seen too many situations such as this.
- a) It’s not only black people who realize that they are poorly treated by many white police officers; many foreigners who now live in America (or in other countries) often ask — why are the American white police officers so hostile towards black Americans?
- b) Of course, those who are keen observers also notice that white police officers are not the only ones who are hostile towards blacks.
- c) Years ago, when more affluent Asian students from certain countries were planning to immigrate to the USA they were required to take classes to prepare them to live in America. In those classes they were often warned to keep away from blacks and not to associate with them because they were dangerous. One student was told never to accept a ride from a black person.
- d) This was also true of students coming from other countries.
After reading the article, and watching the video, what questions come to your mind?
a) If you knew nothing about structural, systemic and institutional racism, what questions would you ask of our judicial system?
b) What is the first thing you would want to know, and why?
Read a NY Times editorial here about “The Violent Legacy of Chicago’s Police.”
“Standing with community leaders before releasing the video, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Garry McCarthy, the Chicago Police superintendent, said they expected demonstrations in response to the graphic nature of the video, and urged people to avoid violence. “It’s fine to be passionate, but it is essential that it remain peaceful,” Mr. Emanuel said.
“The criminal charge against the officer, Jason Van Dyke, 37, who has been with the police department here for 14 years, was the first time in decades that a Chicago police officer had been charged with murder in an on-duty shooting. The city had previously fought to keep the video private, citing an ongoing investigation into the incident.
The charge against Officer Van Dyke and the release of the video came just over a year after Mr. McDonald was shot 16 times, even after he had stepped slightly away from the officer, prosecutors said. Witnesses said Mr. McDonald, who was carrying a three-inch folding knife, never spoke to Officer Van Dyke or any of the other officers and did not make threatening moves toward him. None of at least seven other police officers on the scene fired their weapons.
The N.A.A.C.P., on Twitter, called it “unacceptable” that it took over a year for the video of the shooting to be released.
“The family of Mr. McDonald, which had opposed the video’s release, also issued a statement through their lawyers calling for calm. “No one understands the anger more than us, but if you choose to speak out, we urge you to be peaceful,” the family said. “Don’t resort to violence in Laquan’s name. Let his legacy be better than that.
In announcing the murder charge, Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state’s attorney, acknowledged that she had pushed to charge the officer before the video became public. “I made a decision to come forward first because I felt like, with the release of this video, that it’s really important for public safety that the citizens of Chicago know that this officer is being held accountable for his actions,” Ms. Alvarez said.
“Since late last year, the shooting has been investigated by a team that included the F.B.I., the United States attorney’s office in Chicago and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. But Ms. Alvarez said she decided to proceed with charges on her own when the videotape was ordered released. Federal charges are still possible, legal experts said, and federal authorities said their investigation was continuing.
“Ms. Alvarez, a two-term Democrat who is seeking re-election in March, defended herself against suggestions that the investigation had taken too long, saying that such investigations into police shootings often take more than a year. And she rejected claims that she had buckled to political pressure by filing the charges before the video came out, saying she had reached a conclusion several weeks ago that charges were warranted.
“Hours before the video’s release, a judge, Donald Panarese Jr., ordered Officer Van Dyke held without bail, indicating that he wanted to see the video before revisiting the question of bond at a hearing on Monday. Officer Van Dyke faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted.
Dan Herbert, a lawyer for Officer Van Dyke, has said that the officer believed the shooting was justified because he feared for his safety and that of other officers. Mr. Herbert said his client “absolutely” intended to go to trial. Dressed in a beige sweater and jeans, Mr. Van Dyke said little during the brief hearing.
The charges and the release of the video came amid a national debate over race, police shootings and a growing number of violent encounters with the police captured on video. Chicago’s police force has its own sometimes painful history, which by some estimates includes more than $500 million in settlements and other costs over the last decade tied to police misconduct as well as reparations for black residents who said a group of officers abused and tortured them in the 1970s and ’80s.
“In April, the city agreed to pay $5 million to the McDonald family, even before a suit had formally been filed in the case.
On the evening of Oct. 20, 2014, police officers approached Mr. McDonald on the city’s Southwest Side, prosecutors said, after a resident reported seeing him breaking into trucks and stealing radios and was holding him until the police arrived. Mr. McDonald, who had the folding knife in his hand, walked away as police officers arrived. Someone called for a police unit with a taser, though it was not clear whether anyone with such a weapon ever appeared. At one point, Mr. McDonald “popped” the tire on a police car, apparently with his knife, the prosecutors said.
“With more officers arriving on the scene, Mr. McDonald kept walking and jogging along, not responding to orders to drop the knife, prosecutors said. Near a Burger King along a busy stretch of Pulaski Road, Officer Van Dyke’s marked Chevy Tahoe pulled up alongside other police vehicles, including one containing a dashboard camera. Officer Van Dyke was on the scene for fewer than 30 seconds, prosecutors said, before he began shooting his service weapon, which had a 16-round capacity. The shooting spanned 14 or 15 seconds, and in about 13 of those seconds, prosecutors say, Mr. McDonald was lying on the ground. He was hit 16 times, including in his backside. An autopsy showed the presence of the drug PCP in his system.
For months, the city had refused to release the video. On Thursday, Franklin Valderrama, a Cook County judge, ordered it released. The city initially indicated that it would appeal, but Mr. Emanuel then announced that Chicago would release the video, and issued a statement condemning Officer Van Dyke’s actions and calling for prosecutors to take prompt action.
“In accordance with the judge’s ruling, the city will release the video by Nov. 25, which we hope will provide prosecutors time to expeditiously bring their investigation to a conclusion so Chicago can begin to heal,” Mr. Emanuel said last week. On Monday, he met privately with community leaders and pastors.”
We encourage visitors to read the complete article and related posts in the New York Times linked below. Regardless of what substance Jaquan McDonald had in his 17-year-old system, he did not attack the cop, or even made any hostile gesture towards him. VanDyke’s action spoke very loudly, as have the actions of other police officers before him and since: he has the power to do as he pleases when it comes to black people. So few police officers have ever been held accountable before, why would it not be so in his case? Police officers have gotten away with murder so many times before; why would it change today? http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/25/us/chicago-officer-charged-in-death-of-black-teenager-official-says.html?
The optics in this news conference video are quite interesting: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/25/us/chicago-officer-charged-in-death-of-black-teenager-official-says.html? http://nyti.ms/1lIvV7h
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