Op-Ed, 516 words

The Days of Lying to Protect Killer Cops Are Numbered

Enough is enough.

Marc Morial

Right around Thanksgiving, the city of Chicago released a dash-cam video showing the cold-blooded murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of a Chicago Police Department officer.

The very next day, the Chicago Urban League — supported by my organization, the National Urban League — formally requested that the Department of Justice investigate the Chicago police. This long-sought probe will investigate racial disparities in how our nation’s second-largest police department uses force. And it will scrutinize the city’s ability to handle allegations of misconduct and discipline rogue officers.

The discrepancies between police accounts of the October 2014 shooting of the black teen and what’s actually seen in the video are stark and disturbing.

Police claimed McDonald moved toward the officers just before the shooting. The video, however, shows him jogging away from the police. Police claimed McDonald continued moving toward the officers even after he fell. The video shows Officer Jason Van Dyke firing shots into McDonald’s motionless body. Police claimed the knife the teen held was in the open position. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the blade was closed.

Seeing No Evil, Chicago Edition, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Seeing No Evil, Chicago Edition, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

In other words, the police lied — repeatedly.

The police conspiracy to conceal the truth of what happened that night speaks to a long-standing grievance — particularly among the city’s African-American communities — that many police officers believe they’re above the communities and laws they’re sworn to protect and serve.

Van Dyke, who shot 16 bullets into McDonald — most of them while he was already lying on the ground — had 18 citizen complaints filed against him. But the police officer had never been disciplined.

McDonald’s unnecessary and tragic death has pushed aside the dark veil of police department unaccountability. In 97 percent of citizen complaints filed from 2011 to 2015, The New York Times reports, not one officer was punished.

Enough is enough. Lies and cover-ups can never be the norm in our nation’s police departments.

No one is served when the police and citizens look at each other with distrust, fear, and hostility. To effectively fight crime, citizens and police officers must be partners in that effort — and that can’t happen if suspicion and anger stand in between that vital, life-saving partnership.

We need to understand more than how the police handled this specific case. We also need to know if this outrage points to a pattern of systemic abuse and lies.

“The mixed message of purported concern yet muted response — or even denial — we’ve seen from [the department’s] top management highlights the lack of transparency and due process when it comes to officer-involved shootings,” said Chicago Urban League interim president and CEO Shari Runner. “It is imperative that the Department of Justice step in and correct this conduct before there is any more loss of life.”

As long as organizations like ours, community groups, and the citizens of Chicago and beyond continue to demand that police departments respect the civil rights of everyone they protect and serve, the days of lies and cover-ups to protect killer cops are numbered.

Marc Morial is the CEO of the National Urban League. NUL.org
Distributed by OtherWords.org

  • publicius

    I watched the video. I had to find the link myself since it was not included as part of your treatise on transparency and accountability. I must say that your stated conclusions sir don’t mesh with what I saw. So I’ll go point by point.

    Eight officers on the scene. I saw only two out of the car close to McDonald. Yes I saw other police vehicles, no doubt occupied. Were they directly involved?

    While McDonald was not walking directly toward the officers on foot, he was not walking directly away from them either. And at what distance was he from the officers when they fired?

    States’ attorney Alvarez stated the knife was closed. You choose to believe it, but at the 3:54 time mark on the tape, you can see the vehicle headlights glinting off the knife blade being held by McDonald. Did Laquan McDonald present an imminent threat to the officers and did Laquan McDonald present a serious and on-going threat to others (3rd parties) if allowed to continue?

    Those are all conclusions to be determined by a jury on the basis of the facts; all of the facts. So while you’re entitled to your own opinion, you’re not entitled to your own facts.

    Am I here to defend the officer? No. I’m here to challenge the veracity of your statements on the same premise you challenge CPD; due process. You insist
    on due process on the one hand and yet deny it on the other. Nothing you say has been proven factual. None of the conclusions you espouse have a
    solid factual basis; just the taint of perspective. It’s how you see it.

    You talk about transparency and accountability. There, you’re probably not wrong. The police could do better with some things. But confusion and misunderstanding by the public of police procedure doesn’t amount to misdeed or illegal activity. Failure to explain doesn’t amount to collusion or surreptitious activity.

    Complaints fall under the same category. Unsubstantiated complaints should be purged. Any complaint received should be vigorously investigated and let the chips fall where they may. But by the same token, if you file a false
    complaint, the person should be held responsible for the falsity of that
    complaint just the same as the officer will be held accountable if the
    complaint is substantiated. Too often, complaints are frivolous and without merit, simply because people don’t like being arrested.

    Try to keep in mind however that probable cause to arrest is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Nor is the fact that the City of Chicago elected to give the family money an admittance of guilt.