The Sins of the Chicago Police Laid Bare
No one who is even passingly familiar with the history of the Chicago Police Department can claim to be surprised by a new report showing that the department is plagued by systemic racism and operates with utter disregard for the lives of the black citizens whom it batters, maims and kills.
Nevertheless, this report, issued on Wednesday by a task force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, lays out with extraordinary clarity the department’s long record of racial profiling, torture and killings and makes scores of recommendations that might offer Chicagoans some hope.
Mayor Emanuel created the task force in December, not long after the city released a police video showing a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, executing a black teenager named Laquan McDonald on a street on the South Side of Chicago. The video contradicted a police news release saying that the young man was killed because he had been menacing the officer. Officer Van Dyke was not charged with murder until November, more than a year after the killing. There is no reason to believe that the officer would ever have been charged had a judge not ordered the city to make the video public.
The city’s decision to withhold the video for 13 months — even as the police presented false accounts of what had happened — tapped into long-simmering rage about the injuries and deaths of other African-Americans at the hands of the police. The brutality dates back decades and includes episodes like the Police Department’s execution of the Black Panther leader Fred Hampton during a raid in 1969 and the infamous “midnight crew’’ that beat and tortured black men from the 1970s to the 1990s. Besides killings, the department also has a long history of false arrests, coerced confessions and wrongful convictions.
The sense of injustice and grievance that pervades the black community — among the poor, the middle class and the affluent — is borne out by the police data. African-Americans, who make up only one-third of the city’s population, made up nearly three-quarters of the people who were shot by police officers between 2008 and 2015, compared with 14 percent for Hispanics and 8 percent for whites. When police officers fired their tasers, African-Americans were targeted 76 percent of the time, compared with 13 percent for Hispanics and 8 percent for whites.
As the report said, people from all walks of life believe that the Chicago police force, instead of protecting them, is a lethal threat to their safety, which is understandable since the lives of numerous people of color “came to an end solely because of an encounter with C.P.D.”
The task force, led by former prosecutors and other law enforcement experts, makes more than 100 recommendations. Among other things, it advises scrapping a hopeless broken police oversight system in favor of a new investigative agency that would be under civilian control. It calls for creating a data-driven early warning system to identify dangerous and abusive officers; changing the police contract to make it easier to punish wrongdoers; re-emphasizing the beat patrol system, so officers get to know the communities they serve; expanding the department’s use of body cams; and putting disciplinary information online so taxpayers can keep track of complaints and officers’ records.
The Chicago report echoes Justice Department reports issued in 2014 on Cleveland and last year on Ferguson, Mo. — two cities where police killings of civilians have provoked deep public outrage. That Chicago, which prides itself on being a world-class city, should be no better, if not worse, should be a source of civic shame
Chicago’s business leaders should be sickened that it took the execution of a teenager for the city’s elected leaders to begin to face up to the truth about the Police Department — a truth the black community has been saying for decades. They should also know that the city’s future and stability will remain at risk until they root out barbarism in one of the country’s most troubled police agencies.
Then we have another illlustration of how broken and widespread it is. In the editorial below another author lays bare their own experience in the supposed bastions of justice and equality that demonstrates Lady Justice is not blind but dumb yes.
The collusion, the obstruction, the malefesance that transpires between all the players on the stage =- from Police, to Prosecutors to Judges, there are few that are not willing to do whatever it takes to win at whatever costs. To find an exoneration of a 57 year old case only proves that this is not a new thing it is just still a thing.
I saw the reality of this first hand. I hid behind a pole and listened to cops and Prosecutors mock many of those they were citing, I know as I was one. The glad handing, the high fiving and yes a discussion overheard that proved that cops will manipulate and dominate any situation that might put their case at risk.
I stood and listened to the Police officer exchange info with both a fire fighter and a Nurse to ensure that testimony was exactly as his was, despite the case being two years old at the time, memories fail and time passes seemed to have no affect on the witnesses for the prosecution from the state, but when the witness that was a private citizen one who had recorded and maintained said records of that night where he questioned some of the acts of the Police he was summarily ignored.
My own Attorney, Opie, was equally compliant. He frequently commended the Police, the fire fighter and the State lab scientist. He sat resolutely by and never once challenged or questioned any of the arguments or bizarre scenarios that were presented by the Prosecution. My other lawyer, Harvard, frequently objected and then would turn to Opie to ask if it was okay as he knew that he needed these people in the future so he did not want to jeopardize their relationship. Opie did feel the Judge was an utter incompetent and that was expressed only once after the motion hearing on blood evidence which the Supreme Court of the United States had ruled in favor of my case, Sambo felt it was not applicable in this case as it was before the Supreme Court had ruled so therefore that decision could not apply. Yes this is a Judge who at times seemed so out of sort that I thought perhaps he might also have a head injury.
Then we have my own testimony that was also easily discarded and ignored. I still appreciate Judge Sambo ruling after Police claimed there was no one by that name in any record search of my date that night, (but not calling the number nor requesting phone records from Verizon) along with the Prosecutors inference I hallucinated him, despite the hospital Social Workers intake record of both the name and number on my phone and calling same number, Sambo felt that unless he could come in here and testify that I was out with him and that he drugged me, that defense was not applicable.
It is bizarre to watch your civil rights float away as if you are in boat with no paddle. Paying even for the best legal advice team I could, with the reputation of bringing down the Washington State Crime Lab, made me question that they actually did so and it was largely the work of a woman lawyer who was also part of that landmark case. I again have had enough of men for a lifetime but the few women I have encountered in the Courts are no better, it is simply a reflection of the system.
Yes the reality is that the courts are in the business of finding you guilty as charged.
Chicago’s Racist Cops and Racist Courts
By NICOLE GONZALEZ VAN CLEVE
THE NEW YORK TIMES
APRIL 14, 2016
AS a report by a panel commissioned by Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago found on Wednesday, racism in the city’s Police Department is rampant: Blacks are disproportionately subjected to traffic stops, Tasers and street stops that do not lead to arrest; they also account for an appalling 74 percent of the 404 people shot by the Chicago police between 2008 and 2015.
What the report does not say, though — and what many Chicagoans themselves may not know — is that the rottenness is not confined to the Police Department. Racist practices extend far into the criminal courts, indeed they are the very foundation of the cases that enter into the court system.
The hands of many judges and prosecutors are just as dirty as the bigots in blue. I know this firsthand. In 1997, I became a court clerk in the prosecutor’s office for Cook County, which encompasses Chicago. Many of my days started with my supervisors’ corralling police officers who were scheduled to testify. The officers, in plain clothes, would walk into the office with a rolled-up newspaper under one arm, as if they were walking into a men’s bathroom rather than an office. Often, they would sit in the jury box, next to the judge (regardless of the appearance of impropriety) and would dutifully teach me how the justice system really worked, how black men really were “dogs,” and how judges and prosecutors who focused on due process “nonsense” were “liberals” who were throwing away “their” cases.
Prosecutors and judges often participated in this culture. They spoke in overtly racist ways in court, mocked defendant’s black-sounding names or used bastardized Ebonics to imitate the voices of defendants, families and victims. In their eyes, defendants were to blame for their poverty, an ideology that justified a host of abuses of defendants, victims, witnesses or anyone with black or brown skin who found themselves in the court. What I realized was that attorneys were nearly as well versed in the Chicago Police Department’s brand of street justice as they were in the criminal code. And they knew that to blow the whistle or in any way resist this culture could cost you your reputation, your job or, even, your safety.
A judge I often worked with gave me my first lesson in criminal law, Cook County-style. He didn’t refer to the criminal code or even the Constitution. He taught me the Chicago Police Department’s brand of case acquisition. He said to watch for a string of cases where officers would reproduce the same police report detailing how drugs would “fall out” of defendants’ pockets as they “fled on foot” — common phrases used by police officers. The judge said that a “certain” neighborhood (which was code for black and Latino) had an epidemic of “holey” pockets.
The judge laughed at the fabrication of police reports as if it were a novelty, rather than an abuse of power. Never once did the judge try to teach me about the Fourth Amendment and whether such police practices fell within the boundaries of lawful search and seizure. I spent years researching the Cook County court system for a book, including scores of interviews with prosecutors and judges.
Their stories lined up closely with my own experience. “A police officer killed a guy and they said he was shooting at them at the time,” one prosecutor told me. “I could tell that didn’t make much sense, but I put the blinders on.” When the prosecutor brought up inconsistencies in two officers’ stories to a supervisor, the boss screamed, “You’re a prosecutor, not a defense attorney!” and assigned a new lawyer to the case.
In my interviews with judges and prosecutors, they willingly admitted that police perjury was part of the culture of the court system in Cook County. Twenty of the 27 judges I interviewed said that police perjury occurred, six did not directly respond, and only one said that it did not occur. As for prosecutors, 12 of 27 prosecutors said that police perjury sometimes occurred, seven did not directly respond and eight said that it did not. What was unclear from these interviews was whether the silence or denial was based on an unwillingness to talk, or on a fear of talking.
From my experience, it was rooted in fear. Prosecutors need the police. They are their star witnesses. They need cops to win cases, and they need to win cases to get promoted. This dependency creates a system where the police have a hand in controlling the types of prosecutors who get promoted, and the type of justice defendants receive in our courts.
Some apologists claim that these types of racist practices, and the codes of silence that are required to perpetuate them, are the unsavory but necessary facts of life in maintaining law and order in the big city. That is simply not true. They have dire consequences for the rights and liberties of those least capable of protecting them.