It is possible that you may have missed the announcement last week that the Chicago police officer who killed 55-year-old Bettie Jones and 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, will not have any charges pressed against him.
The day after Christmas last year, police were called to the building where Bettie Jones lived. Quintonio LeGrier was apparently very upset and had a baseball bat, his father Antonio had called the police. When the police arrived, Bettie Jones opened the door of the building. She was shot and killed while the police were shooting at Quintonio, who was also killed by the police.
The Cook County State’s Attorney (Kim Foxx’s office) claimed, “there was not enough evidence to prove the officer was not acting in self-defense.” This decision to not even press charges and put the officer on trial continues the pattern of the previous States Attorney Anita Alvarez, who Kim Foxx replaced. Regardless of Foxx’s excuse to not press charges, this allows for police impunity to continue.
Recently the Department of Justice released a report condemning the Chicago Police Department (CPD) for torturing people and ripping the CPD training tactics. Important critiques from the report state that:
CPD’s accountability system is broken, that officers accused of misconduct are rarely disciplined, officer training is woefully inadequate, and the use of excessive force disproportionately affects people of color in the poorest, highest-crime neighborhoods.
We need to demand an elimination of the ridiculous articles of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) contract that encourages officers to lie and cover up their tragic actions. There are articles in their contract that require officers to stay silent even if they witness a fellow officer doing something inappropriate. This silence is effectively known as the Code of Silence. The Code of Silence is something that Mayor Emanuel and the city admit exists.
In addition to the Code of Silence the FOP contract explains that, “...collective bargaining agreements make it harder for citizens to file complaints or to learn how those complaints are resolved. They make it easier for cops to lie and harder for their bosses to discipline them. The contracts also undermine the Police Department’s efforts to improve a training program.”
The FOP contract led to the acquittal of Dante Servin for firing recklessly into a crowd and killing Rekia Boyd. The same contract allowed Jason Van Dyke to empty a full clip of 16 shots in Laquan McDonald, allowed police to erase the Burger King surveillance video where the incident happened, and in collaboration with the City of Chicago kept the video hidden for a year. In addition, Jason Van Dyke is now quietly trying to get his charges dropped. This contract allowed for the very controversial police killings of Paul O’Neal, Pierre Loury, Joshua Beal, and Kajuan Raye, just to name a few of the lives taken.
If there is a system that allows for police to kill and face no accountability then we need a new system.
It is important that you know that I’m a teacher that supports and promotes unions. However, as a CPS teacher for 10 years, I have heard countless stories of police brutality shared by my students. Both schools I have worked at reportedly had students killed by the police, and many other students claim they had been assaulted and harassed by other officers.
It is time for educators along with everyone else to call the Fraternal Order of Police union out. The FOP and the city will begin negotiations for a new contract soon as the current one expires this summer. It is important that we demand that our Alderman, State’s Attorney, and Mayor create a new contract that keeps citizens safe, as well as police.
The vast majority of police officers are not the issue. The system is the issue. The system that encourages good cops to stay quiet. The system that encourages police who are brave enough to speak up to face dangerous levels of retaliation. The system that refuses to change the way police are investigated. The mayor changed the name of the reviewing agency from Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) to the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) to sound different but the premise is the same; no accountability for police.
If there is a system that allows for police to kill and face no accountability then we need a new system. A system such as the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) must be put in place. The difference between CPAC and the Mayor’s appointed council no matter what he calls it, is that CPAC is elected. CPAC would hire the Chief of Police, investigate ALL police shootings, establish the budget for policing and much more. Rahm does not want community control in Chicago. Just like how Rahm refuses to allow for a democratically elected school board, he fears a democratically elected police accountability council.
Changing the system first starts with a demand.
Demand that your Alderman push for a Civilian Police Accountability Council.
Demand that your Alderman require the city to abolish the Code of Silence and police abuses in the upcoming police contract.
Demand that the families of people killed by police get the justice that they deserve.
Demand that this Fraternal Order of Police Contract get thrown in the trash.
(For anyone reading this who might be asking, “But what about the violence in Chicago?”, know that discussing police violence does not mean I am ignoring violence in certain neighborhoods. It is not, an either-or situation. I am concerned about both. This piece is just about the impact of police violence. If you are only concerned about intra-communal violence then click here, here, here, and here.)