Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Let's make the best out of that video!


     Rahm Emanuel began his first inaugural address, that long ago cloudless day in May 2011, by talking about the need to improve the schools, then quickly shifted to the violence plaguing the children attending those schools.
     "We must make our streets safer," he said, citing a grim toll that "shames the living" and "should prod all of us" to find ways to stem the bloodshed. He offered, as hope to the city, his new police superintendent, Garry McCarthy.
     "Our new police chief understands this," Emanuel said. "He is the right man at the right time for the right job."
     Now, four years later, the city is transfixed by the specter of police, who work for that right man at the right time, not as the solution to the slaughter of the city's children but as a cause of it.
     On Tuesday, Jason Van Dyke, 37, became the first police officer in 34 years to be charged with first-degree murder for a killing committed during the execution of his duties. He was charged with firing 16 shots into 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014, an act captured on the dashboard camera, a "graphic...violent...chilling" video, in the words of Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, bringing the charges just before the video is to be released. "This video will tear at the heart of all Chicagoans."
     Emanuel described the video as "hideous" without even seeing it, and tried to turn its release into a carnival of spin, hype and, ludicrously, hope, no doubt under his "let no crisis go wasted" philosophy. I couldn't be the only viewer watching the mayor tap dance Tuesday evening and think: "Just shut up already and release the video." Emanuel was trying to soften the blow, not to us, but to him. This makes him look bad or, rather, worse. Murders were up already — this September had 60 murders, making killings up 21 percent over the year before. Now, with the city reeling in horror, violence in Chicago is becoming the third leg in the tripod of Rahm's failure as a mayor, growing into stark relief in his second and almost certainly final term: inability to solve the pension crisis, the broken and deteriorating schools, and bloodshed that not only shatters families here but stains the city's reputation worldwide.
     Will the video spark riots that further besmirch Rahm's Chicago? Or just be an anti-climax after all that build-up? To say riots are coming could be the racism of low expectations. If African-American sections of Chicago rioted every time a cop did something wrong, it's all they'd ever do. Nobody rioted after a judge waved police officer Dante Servin out of a courtroom last April, explaining that he couldn't be found guilty of reckless conduct in shooting a 22-year-old unarmed woman, Rekia Boyd, in the back of the head, because he shot intentionally into the crowd where she was.
     People tend to do what's expected of them, and expecting unrest can be seen as a kind of permission, a loosening of standards. A number of community leaders sure sounded like they were already apologizing, already permitting. That's the reason sports championships often unleash violent mob behavior. People should be rejoicing, yet some see the victory as a suspension of the usual rules, a chance to act out however they please. It isn't just a poor black thing: after one Bulls championship, I watched a gang of white suburbanites turn over a cab on Rush Street. They did it a) because the cab was there and b) because the cops didn't try to stop them.
     Which brings up another factor possibly encouraging unrest. The charges being brought when they were is extraordinary timing, and it's hard not to view it as Alvarez's ham-handed attempt to quell trouble by throwing a cop under the bus. Though it might just as easily cause further violence. Because cops hate to see one of their brethren punished for anything, and typically respond with a collective sulk, pulling back and refusing to do their jobs out of the notion that nobody has their backs. "If every guy who makes a bad judgment call is charged with murder then why should we stick our necks out?" Small disturbances have a way of turning into big ones and if there is trouble, it won't be surprising if sluggish police activity is also a contributing factor. Afterward, we'll all pretend it was a surprise.

28 comments:

  1. Good article and so true on every point, especially about Rahm. We need a new police superintendant as well. The cops lawyer will probably try to reduce it to 2nd degree since this wasn't pre-meditated but more of a reaction. The police union also protected this cop who should not have been working after all the complaints against him.

    But Tyshawn's alleged killer should not have been allowed out on bail either.

    AG

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  2. I didn't see the entire press conference, so I have to ask: Did Rahm, or McCarthy, or anybody, apologize for what happened? I heard plenty about a disturbing video, but did anyone apologize and say that they have to do better?

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    1. Hopefully the demonstrations won't turn to looting.

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  3. I'm not familiar with specific Chicago Police training techniques, but a component of police training nationwide, involves marksmanship awards for accuracy, and speed of firing multiple rounds, at a target centered on the silhouette of a human chest. Maybe training could be modified such that, if a suspect has no firearm, shoot him in the thigh. With that kind of injury, he won't be escaping or lunging very far. Not to debate the details, but just an observation, over the last few years at government employee protests, there were a smattering of remember Trayvon Martin signs. Presumably they wish to portray themselves as a better alternative to vigilante citizens policing the streets. For all the vilification of George Zimmerman, as a person, and his actions, he only had the heart to shoot Trayvon Martin once, then wait to see what happens. Jason Van Dyke's continuous firing at someone laying in the street, is an attribute of a psychopath with no heart. The tolerance by police, of psychopaths in there midst, has to be eliminated.

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    1. Van Dyke seems to have snapped.

      We expected better from Rahm. McCarthy must think policing in NY was a cakewalk compared to this.

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    2. Alvarez is a disgrace and hope she loses at the next election.

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    3. Not trying to justify this shooting, but the notion of "shooting in the leg to disable" is something for TV and movies. When the decision to shoot is made, it is because of the threat; you don't sort out, well, he doesn't have a gun so I'll shoot him in the calf. You shoot to the middle to take him down. If the person is a lethal threat, trying to catch him in a limb with a pistol in a way that will disable him is not a good bet. What is crucial is whether to shoot or not at all.

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    4. Here, take a look at the video of the Laquan McDonald shooting. The best outcome can be achieved with a combination of good training, and good judgment. The first officers to respond showed both, they stood back from Laquan, and made a request for backup with a taser. There was no need to stop him, he was no threat to anyone at that time. Now if he was walking in the other direction, towards the Burger King with innocent customers and employees, he would become a clear danger to civilians. I maintain there is a place in police procedure for shooting to disable a suspect, every single shot does not have to be a killshot. It appears officer Van Dyke was shouting at Laquan to drop the knife, then fired when he failed to comply. A similar event occurred in Seattle years ago when, a Native American artist was walking down the street with his carving knife and block of wood. Unfortunately John T. Williams was deaf. Officer Ian Birk stood nine feet away, and placed four well aimed killshots into John.

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  4. "...to be charged with first-degree murder for a killing committed during the execution of his duties."
    The word 'execution' sure stands out in that sentence.

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  5. Be careful of generalizations in your commentary. You don't really know what cops think or feel, any more than you know what all members of any profession think or feel.

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  6. It's disappointing to see what a failure Emanuel has become as mayor. Like, with the CPS debacle, he comes off like the helpless, unknowing victim. Does he hold himself accountable for the mismanagement and corruption by the people he appoints to top positions? Never. It's the people of the city who must be accountable and bear responsibility going forward. Isn't it enough Chicago taxpayers shell out millions in retribution for the crimes committed under his watch?

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    1. It was surprising to read in the ST that a Burger King manager in the area had given police his surveillance tapes and they were returned with some minutes missing. Or maybe it shouldn't be surprising.

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  7. With regard to "throwing a cop under the bus": I think it's just as likely that his crime was going to be covered up until a judge ordered the video to be released, at which point the authorities realized that they would no longer be able to get away with not charging him. Equally reprehensible, to be sure, but it sure doesn't seem to me like that cop deserved protection.

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    1. Actually it's amazing that the judge released it. I thought he/she would cave to local, political pressure. Timing it's release with a major holiday is probably not a coincidence. They figure people will be busy with families and have less time to be out in the streets.

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    2. Couldn't Amy Madigan have gotten on top of this sooner or urged Anita along?

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    3. Amy Madigan is a fine actress, but I'm pretty sure you mean Lisa.

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  8. To anon at 8:43 a.m. It is understandable that cops are under great stress and danger but anything more than one bullet in this case has gone way too far.

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    1. At Ferguson, there the cop had a leg to stand on, not in this case. Van Dyke, judging from photos or past complaints, looks like a bully. Bet his wife and kids lived in fear.

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    2. Police officers that report other cops probably get bullied or get bad hours and assignments, thus the code of silence.

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  9. The Mayor, Police Chief and State's Attorney are all really smart people, smarter than me by far, and experienced in gauging public sentiments. How could they have handled this matter so clumsily, almost begging for hostility from all sides?

    john

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  10. Over and over again, blacks are forced to take it to the streets and the white folks get all scared. How about some real reform?

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  11. The shooting was murder. I disagree with what the cop did. I'm not a cop so I don't understand it all I wasn't there. I'm not a criminal that's ever taken PCP or stabbed a cops tire or stolen radios from cars. Could the cop have done something different? Sure. Could McDonaldhave freaked out and stabbed a kid walking by as his buzzed of a hallucinations excelled? Sure. Is it a fact this was a cover up? Absolutely! Did this video not come out before Rahms election to keep black votes? I have to go with yes it was. I just don't understand why children can be killed and the same size crowd doesn't show up in a line walking towards gangs and shutting down their operations like they shut down Chicago.

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  12. Well said, anon at 6:28

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    1. The ST on Thurs. had some news bits on agitators who were shouting in a cops face and another who punched a cop in the face and charges were not pressed to keep the piece. Some of these thugs have no respect for anyone and not all are innocent victims.

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    2. (peace not piece)

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  13. Who knows what abuse some of the cops have to put up with day after day. That doesn't justify shooting or covering up but they prob know a thug can shoot them anytime. Again, more should be demonstrating when gangbangers shoot their kids.

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  14. Maybe all the cops bad parts of the city should go on strike, then they might be appreciated more when there is full lawlessness there.

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