In 1992, the Los Angeles riots brought a massive issue to the public’s attention. The riot events and the happenings leading up to the riots resulted in the beginnings to law enforcement reforms, and finally began to open up the avenue of critically analyzing the police force’s conduct.
Rewind a little bit further to March of 1991.
Rodney King, a paroled felon was the cause of a high speed car chase in LA. Although King was intoxicated and considered dangerous the ways in which police ultimately handled this scenario was highly controversial. Once King surrendered himself to police, the real acts of violence occurred. Four police officers kicked and beat King with their batons for an unrelenting timeframe.
There was a serious lapse in judgment calls of those officers to continue mercilessly beating King, long after he was physically able to resist arrest. Fortunately a nearby witness caught the entire series of events on camera, which was a lot less common two decades ago.
What set this case off was the fact that after about a year of court hearings the ultimate ruling was in favor of the abusive police officers. Why is this relevant to today? Here are a few statistics to put this into perspective.
- Police officers, on average, kill 3 citizens a day in the United States.
- 32% of black people killed by police were unarmed.
- 1 in 13 of the fatal shootings in America are committed by police.
- Every 8 hours a cop kills an a citizen; 1110 Americans have been killed this year by police.
- Cops are indicted in less than 1% of killings, while indictment rate for civilians is 90%.
Fast forward to modern day. We’re currently at a point in time where police forces continue to amplify, creating some surprising and even terrifying forms of police technology. As of late, focus on a particularly scrutinized police force, the Chicago PD, has surfaced.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Loretta Lynch made this extremely important announcement:
“Today, I’m here to announce that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether the Chicago police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the constitution or federal law. Specifically, we will examine a number of issues related to the Chicago police department’s use of force, including its use of deadly force, racial, ethnic and other disparities in its use of force, and its accountability mechanisms–such as its disciplinary actions and its handling of allegations of misconduct.
Lynch went on to say:
“We understand that the same systems that fail community members also fail conscientious officers by creating mistrust between law enforcement and the citizens that they are sworn to serve and protect. This mistrust from members of the community makes it more difficult to gain help with investigations, to encourage the victims and the witnesses of crime to speak up and to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of public safety officials. When suspicion and hostility is allowed to fester it can erupt into unrest.”
Furthermore Lynch finished by saying that the Department of Justice has received many requests by both people and offices to analyze the Chicago police department. Those requests, in addition to the obvious excessive police force issues recently displayed by Chicago police, are what have lead the Department of Justice to make this decision and investigate further.
The shooting of Laquan McDonald and the correlating video evidence of the shooting
17 year old, Laquan McDonald, was killed by Chicago police back in October of last year. This is one of the reasons for the initial influx of media attention due to the nature of the case. McDonald was allegedly breaking into cars and stealing stereos when police were called in.
McDonald was shot 16 times on the scene by white police officer Jason Van Dyke. 16 times!
A police statement was made that McDonald had raised a knife at Van Dyke prior to the sea of bullets, but dash camera footage certainly contradicted that claim.
Unaddressed complaints against officers
Where does the general public turn when no one is acknowledging these relevant complains? We must arm ourselves, not with weaponry, with the things literally at our fingertips. In times of protest, it’s important to always have your cell phone armed (charged) and ready. While at times social media and law enforcement function in harmony, the same infused lifestyles and modern day tech commonalities certainly aid in protest endeavors. Video evidence keeps us safe by creating a back bone of hard evidence that almost unarguable.
Racial bias in the department
In general, 31.8 percent of people shot by the police are African-American. This statistic, unfortunately, couldn’t be more true regarding the Chicago PD.
Chicago officers have displayed numerous racially charged and, frankly, damaging behaviors in the past several years. One instance involved two white police officers posing for a disturbing ‘photo shoot’ with a captive black man. He was forced to pose for ‘hunting’ photos. The police officers attached deer antlers to his head and flashed guns for the photographs.
Heavy racism even exists within the police department itself, as the number of minorities currently serving as officers has been flat-lined for years.
The Homan Square ‘black site’
The inhumane Chicago police compound, Homan Square, was brought to the public eye’s attention back in February thanks to an in-depth report by the Guardian. This ‘holding compound’ is much more of a creepy warehouse than a legitimate facility. Over 3000 civilians were held here, the majority of them black Americans, without proper care or access to a lawyer. Those held here are reportedly beaten and even shackled, and typically detained without proper police protocol, making the whole facility illegal to say the least.
What does all of this say about the current status of extremely overbearing, unwarranted, excessive police force?
Although progress is slow at times, the Department of Justice is doing their part. They are heavily evaluating the problematic patterns being displayed by the Chicago police and will continue to press forward. This arguably needs to happen before violent tendencies become common patterns for police all around the country.
This is a step in the right direction, but with so many staggering statistics out there related to police brutality, waves of change must flow.
A relevant statement by the United Nations relating to police violence in the US hits the nail on the head:
“This is not an isolated event and illustrates a bigger problem in the United States, such as racial bias among law enforcement officials, the lack of proper implementation of rules and regulations governing the use of force, and the inadequacy of training of law enforcement officials.”