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Rahm Is Wrong: Officer Who Killed Laquan McDonald Represents Chicago Police

Moments before releasing a video at a press conference, which shows white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke killing a 17 year-old black boy named Laquan McDonald, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted Van Dyke was not representative of the Chicago Police Department.

“Jason Van Dyke does not represent the police department because I can give you chapter and verse on people that are doing things that are beyond what their ‘job description’ is, who every day go out not just to protect but also to serve,” Emanuel declared.

The statement came in response to a question from journalist Brandon Smith, who sued the city and forced the release of the video. He was blocked from entering the press conference, but a local CBS News reporter asked a question about the wider culture of corruption in the police department on his behalf.

According to the Better Government Association, 300 people were shot by Chicago police between 2010 and 2014. Seventy of those individuals were killed. More people were killed by police in Chicago than any other of the largest cities in the United States.

IPRA, according to WBEZ, has investigated around 400 “civilian shootings by officers” and only found two to be “unjustified.”

Smith told Shadowproof, “That does not sound like a probable statistic if these were investigated thoroughly and properly and in an unbiased manner. How would that strike anyone as correct?”

In fact, this year, an investigator who worked for IPRA was fired when he resisted orders to change findings against officers involved in shootings, which he had found to be “unjustified.”

To further demonstrate how representative Van Dyke is of the police department, according to the city of Chicago’s own “police disciplinary information” obtained by the Invisible Institute’s Citizen Police Data Project, there were 28,567 allegations of misconduct filed against Chicago police officers between March 2011 and September 2015. Around 98 percent of complaints resulted in zero discipline.

Around ten percent of the force is made up of officers who have received ten or more complaints. These officers receive around 30 percent of all complaints and average more than three times as many complaints as other officers in the police department.

Chicago Police Department Chief Garry McCarthy hyped a supposed change in culture at the department through “policy, training, and supervision,” but the fact is the data provided to the Invisible Institute showed in 2015 that 99 percent of the thousands of complaints received resulted in no discipline.

At least eighteen civilian complaints were filed against Van Dyke, and the New York Times obtained copies of the complaints.

In one instance, Van Dyke was accused of slamming people down while executing a search warrant and calling everyone “niggers” and falsely arresting multiple individuals. A second instance of alleged misconduct involved Van Dyke choking a man during a drunk driving investigation because he had a cough drop in his mouth. Van Dyke also was accused of bending the man’s arm backward “excessively.”

Seven years ago, Van Dyke was involved in the arrest of Eddie Nance. He slammed Nance into the hood of his squad car, which tore his rotator cuffs. A jury awarded $350,000 in damages two years later. But, in all of the above examples, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) determined Van Dyke’s conduct was justified.

Does this fit into the culture of the Chicago Police Department?

Let’s consider Officer Jerome Finnegan. He has had 68 complaints filed against him, and, stunningly, none of them have been found by IPRA to be justified. The alleged misconduct included criminal activity, illegal arrests, arrest/lock-up procedure violations, drug abuse, operation/personnel violations, etc.

Officer Keith Herrera had 67 complaints filed against him. Twice Herrera was disciplined—once for searching a premise without a warrant and once for “neglect of duty.”

Officer Sean Campbell had 57 complaints filed against him. Campbell was suspended for five days in one case related to “reports.” He was not disciplined after he allegedly displayed his weapon unnecessarily while off-duty, used excessive force and injured a person while they were arrested, improperly searched a vehicle, and illegally arrested an individual.

Later in the press conference, Emanuel stated, “Is it perfect? Nothing’s ever perfect. Do we have the spirit and the desire and constantly to find ways to improve it and make it transparent so people believe they will be held accountable for their actions? That is what exists.”

What Emanuel said is preposterous. The department is not struggling to hold police officers accountable. The problem is, in the case of Laquan McDonald and others, where people are shot and killed or abused by police, that the city has chosen to take care of its own and cover up evidence of police violence to protect officers from prosecution for their criminal actions.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."