The editors of the Chicago Tribune remark on the video of Laquan McDonald being executed by a Chicago police officer:
We share the protesters’ anger. We understand their urge to hold public servants accountable. We expect them to make their voices heard. But it will take more than protests, more than the criminal prosecution of a single cop to repair the often fractious relationship between Chicago’s police and its people.
This isn’t about a stunning, isolated event. Zoom out, and it’s part of a broader nationwide clamor over the use of lethal force by white cops against black suspects. Zoom in, and it’s about Chicago’s long-standing failure to deal effectively with rogue police officers.
Think back to the decades of systematic torture of suspects at the hands of Cmdr. Jon Burge and his crew, as prosecutors and police supervisors looked the other way. That stain will be with us for a long, long time.
But the city also has a poor record for dealing with everyday allegations of police misconduct, from unprofessional behavior to unnecessary force.
A Tribune review of four years’ worth of complaints against police officers found that just over 4 percent were sustained, and in nearly half of those cases, the officer was given a reprimand or a “violation noted.” That’s it.
People are asking questions, among them why did it take a year for the video to be made public? The answer given is that an investigation was in progress and that’s true as far as it goes. If you know anything about Chicago, you know that it might have been because of an investigation but it wasn’t solely because of an investigation. If the video had been made public immediately, it would have become public in the middle of Rahm Emanuel’s campaign for re-election as Chicago mayor. Bad feelings between the mayor and the CPD would have threatened that.
But, wait! There’s more. Chicago is on the hook for billions in unpaid back payments into its employee pension funds. There is no ready way for the city to make those payments. Borrowing is very expensive since the city’s bonds are already rated as junk. That 5 million bucks the city paid in preemptive damages to McDonald’s family? Borrowed money. Which means that the people of Chicago will be paying interest at those exorbitant rates forever. There’s no practical other than moving out of town for the people of Chicago to get off the treadmill. There will be tax increases and service reductions as far as the eye can see.
The bottom line here is that we in Chicago are captives of the city’s public employees’ unions, among which are the Fraternal Order of Police.
The motto of the Chicago Police Department, like many of the country’s other police departments, is “To Protect and to Serve”. Who was being protected or served when Laquan McDonald was executed? I note that none of the other police officers on the scene moved to stop Van Dyke until he paused to reload. Who were they protecting? Who is being protected now? Perhaps the motto should be changed “To Protect and to Serve Ourselves”.