Chicago Police SuperIntendent, Eddie Johnson, recommends the firing of seven police officers who were involved with the murder of Laquan McDonald in 2014.

This decision comes after a report was compiled by the city’s Inspector General, Joseph Ferguson, that was released this week, shedding light on the eight police officers’ dishonesty regarding the murder case. According to a police spokesperson, Anthony Guglielmi, following police officials and outside attorney’s receipt of the report, they reviewed it and agreed to recommend firing seven officers. It is now up to the Chicago Police Board to determine whether or not to take this decision forward. In the meantime, the police officers have been relieved of their official powers while the department awaits the Board’s response.

Chicago’s police superintendent, Eddie Johnson faces several questions on whether he will implement the sweeping changes to the department recommended by a police task force this week. Image Credit: NBC Chicago.

Laquan McDonald murder

In October 2014, two police officers pulled over a teenage black male, Laquan McDonald, whom they had allegedly spotted breaking into cars at a trucking yard, after having followed him for less than a kilometer. The police officers had noticed the teen possessed a three-inch blade and urged him to drop his weapon as they awaited the backup they had requested to arrive armed with tasers.

At one point, the teenager reportedly slashed a tire on one of the patrol cars. He continued to make his way away from the police officers when another patrol car arrived on the scene, making the number of police present to eight officers. Police officer, Jason Van Dyke, stepped out of his vehicle wielding a loaded gun and six seconds later opened fire on to the teenager. He shot the teenager 16 times, emptying his 16-barrel gun. The officer was about to reload when his partner told him to hold his fire. It is questionable why the police waited for 16 gunshots later to tell his partner to stand down.

This incident was captured on dashcam whose footage was released a year later by the request of the judge handling the case, going against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s wish to keep it from public knowledge. The footage was released in November 2015, which led Jason Van Dyke to be charged with first-degree murder. Van Dyke pleaded not guilty and claimed to act in self-defense, stating that the teenager was lunging towards him.

The footage released caused an uproar which saw numerous protesters in downtown Chicago speaking out against the hateful and discriminatory police brutality that led to the murder of an innocent African-American male. Police tried to pacify protesters but were unsuccessful due to their feelings of anger, hurt, and betrayal by a system that is supposed to protect and defend but rather squashes the lives of innocent African-Americans.

Laquan McDonald, 17, was shot and killed by Chicago Police near 41st Street and Pulaski Road around 9:45 p.m. in the Archer Heights neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Image Credit: Medill Northwestern

Racism in Illinois

Illinois is known to be one of the most racist states in America. Firstly, the unemployment rate is alarmingly higher for black males than white, according to an article published by the Huffington post in 2011. The article analyses a report made by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics which showed that the unemployment rate for black males was 20.2% in 2010, whereas that for white males was 9.9%. The rate of white male unemployment at the time when the US was recovering from the 2008 recession is the highest it had ever been for that demographic. That same figure is just 0.01% higher than the lowest unemployment rate that black male population had ever seen.

According to an article published by the Chicago Tribune in January this year, 44% of African-American males between the ages 20 and 24 are neither working nor in school, compared to 20% of Hispanic men and 10% white, according to 2015 statistics. This shows that nearly half of the black men in the state are unemployed.

Furthermore, the Chicago Department of Police has too many times to count been accused of systematic racism. A Task Force put together by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to investigate the department found that there had been a myriad of reports of physical and verbal abuse, individuals stopped without justification and in some cases arrested and detained without counsel. All of these incidents were against African-Americans.

Demonstrators confront police officers during a protest in reaction to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, November 27, 2015. Image Credit: Andrew Nelles / Reuters

In a city rich in diversity where black people, Hispanics, and whites each make up a third of the population, it is astounding that such a high and seemingly unapologetic degree of hatred would still be so rife. According to the report, the Task Force compiled: 74% of the 404 people shot by the Chicago police between 2008 and 2015 were African-Americans.

It is with the greatest of hopes that the recently appointed Chicago Police Department SuperIntendent, Eric Johnson, and the Task Force put together by Mayor Rahm Emanuel will do something to curb the systematic violence in the Chicago Police Department, which would be likely to contribute to decreasing the blatant discrimination at a state-level. Also, the Chicago Police Board should make the right and moral decision to proceed with firing the men recommended due to their jaded personal beliefs conflicting with their profession and duty. May they make the right thing for the sake of human rights.

Source: Washington Post