Shoot first and ask questions later, or shoot first and just forget about it. The Chicago Police Department, which is under investigation by the Federal Government, has Chicago residents feeling betrayed and scared to dial 911. The distrust that they have managed to develop in and around the Chicago area has citizens on edge. The deceit is overwhelming because, according to some of Chicago’s citizens, the police are proving they are not a reliable source of help and protection, but instead a source of imminent destruction.
They have managed to make the majority of Chicago’s African-American community, mainly young males, afraid do things as simple as walking to the store or driving to a friend’s house. The police have become the enemy. Now, this is sad because all Chicago policemen are not bad cops. In fact, there are some that actually care about the welfare of the people. But, how will citizens know the difference? They may differ in race and color, but they all wear the same uniform and it is extremely hard to differentiate.
Citizens are marching, protesting, and rallying because they are angry and they have had enough. So far, the demonstrations in Chicago have been comparatively peaceful when measured against some of the demonstrations in other cities due to the senseless deaths of people of color. The protestors are demanding the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois State’s Attorney for Cook County Anita Alvarez. Their claim is that the mayor and state’s attorney knew about and withheld the video of the police shooting death of 17-year-old, Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by a white officer, Jason Van Dyke, while walking away from the policemen. Van Dyke has been indicted for first-degree murder while the other officers involved are still working.
That shooting triggered the federal government to launch the investigation of the Chicago Police Department. The McDonald video and the one recently released of the death of Cedrick Chatman, 17, who was unarmed and shot to death by Officer Kevin Fry, while running away from him with only a cell phone box in his hand, have made national headlines. Additionally, the shooting death of college student, 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, was shot six times while armed with only a bat. Unfortunately, LeGrier’s neighbor, a 55-year-old mother of five, Bettie Jones, was shot and killed when she simply opened the door for the police. Irrational actions by the police have definitely made residents scared to dial 911. Mayor Rahm Emanuel had to cut his family vacation in Cuba short after this tragic incident. He was probably pretty upset about that. Shoot first and ask questions later?
The police, who are committing the shootings, are lying, covering up for each other, and witnesses are being threatened. According to CNN, “at least three witnesses to the Laquan McDonald police killing were questioned for hours, threatened by officers and ordered to change their accounts to match the official Chicago police version of the shooting,” the attorneys for the teen’s estate say.
The allegations are contained in more than 3,000 pages of recently released documents related to the case. The attorneys also allege that police officers up the chain of command fabricated witness accounts to support the way officers at the scene described the shooting, which occurred on Oct. 20, 2014, as justified.
However, it is important to note that African-Americans are not the only victims of unjust shootings and killings by policemen.
The fatal shooting of Esau Castellanos has been put under investigation by the Federal Government due to the lies and false allegations by Chicago Police officers. According to reporters for the Chicago Tribune, the following was noted. After following Castellanos’ car as it sped at about 80 miles an hour and then crashed on a Northwest side street, they said, “they approached the wreckage.” Then, they said, “Castellanos opened fire, forcing them both to dive to the ground to dodge the bullets before they killed Castellanos — firing 19 shots and hitting him three times.”
Almost immediately, though, the officers’ account of the March 2013 shooting began to fall apart. No gun was found on Castellanos. Officer Juan Martinez, who told detectives he had been shot in the head, was never shot; he suffered just scrapes and bruises.
In spite of the lying and deceit, Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in the McDonald case, and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has been fired. However, protesters are still demanding the resignation of Chicago’s mayor.
According to CNN reporters, attorney Jeffrey Neslund had the following to say regarding obstruction in the Chicago Police Department, “It’s not just the officers on the street, it’s a lieutenant, a sergeant, and detectives — and the lengths they went to justify what simply was not true.”
CNN contacted Neslund after documents were released to fulfill the requests under the multiple Freedom of Information Act. When asked if the accusations in the letters were true, the response was, “Absolutely! You have a false narrative put out by police, outright lies to cover up an illegal shooting, corroborated by other officers.”
LeGrier’s mother, Janet Cooksey, who was not present at the time of the shooting, told the Chicago Tribune that her son had been dealing with mental issues, but said police did not have to react the way they did. We wanted the police to help us, and if necessary, send him to the hospital. Instead, they took his life after we called 911! He had a bat, not a gun.
Why have the Chicago Police Department shootings caused residents to be scared to call 911? Are the police going to protect and serve or are the police going to continue taking lives just because they think they can get away with it? And who can be trusted to answer these questions? Better still, who can actually take control of this abominable situation in this great country that the system of justice controls?
The Chicago Police Department is now hoping cameras worn by officers will regain the trust of their citizenry. The pilot program was launched in February 2015. The first cameras were used during the district’s 2 p.m. to midnight CST shift. Overall, complaints have dropped 26 percent against officers. Excessive force complaints dropped to zero in 2015, over the seven complaints filed in 2014. Should this make citizens less scared when dialing 911?
On account of the fact that this is not just a Chicago problem, when it comes to police actually serving and protecting, this writer decided to let readers experience some of the opinions of people from different cities. Here are some of the responses given:
Cathy Milne, of Portland, Oregon, stated, “I went to the grocery store last night and spotted two sheriff’s cars in front of the entrance and found myself afraid to approach the door. They were talking to a man. When I reached the door, he was cuffed and my fear for my personal safety was decreased.”
Lorraine Cruz, of Seattle, Washington, said, “I can say that one of the reasons I moved away from Chicago was the excessive amount of youth, particularly Black and Brown youth, that were being killed. As a parent and educator, I asked that my son would not return to live in Chicago because he was a walking target, a Latino man who is looked at as a Black man. I encourage my students to go away for school and/or training. Although, there is crime everywhere, I have not experienced the disregard for life as profoundly as I had in Chicago. From the senseless gang shootings to the racial profiling, our children are at risk and walking with targets on their backs. That is a fear no mother should have for her child. In recent events, even the elderly are being targeted at alarming rates. This madness must end, we must return to a time where neighbors knew one another, where the village comes together to help the elderly and raise the young.”
Judy SUT Echols, of Atlanta, Georgia, commented, “We’re having the same problem in Atlanta and across the United States. Facing our fears is hard. However, we must continue praying to stop the violence. As far as residents being afraid to call 911; is it due to no response, police not showing up, corruption in the system, or Black on Black crime? I don’t understand and wish I had a solution. I am praying with you in this endeavor. God Bless.”
Treneka R. Odom, of Woodridge, Illinois, said, “I am extremely heartbroken the way things are today….I fear going into the city, thinking I may be one of those innocent people who seem to become victims of senseless crimes….I moved to the suburbs in hopes that my children will have a better chance at survival from this cruel world….I know that crime is everywhere but I sleep a little better at night knowing that my babies are a little safer walking these suburban streets….I will continue to pray over all of our babies and for a solution sooner than later. I do dread being in the city and having to call 911.”
Ms. Swearington, of Atlanta, Georgia, stated, “Fear is debilitating, we can no longer be controlled by fear. Our babies are dying at the hands of police and sadly by our own race….when it happens to your child, brother, any family member, or someone you love, THEN you want people to become brave enough to speak out….speak out now! Before it happens in your yard….vote in the right judges, help elect the right candidates….OUR LIVES MATTER….always have, always will…prayer without action is dead….our churches have gone silent against all this violence plaguing our communities. WAKE UP!”
Joann Griffin, of Atlanta, Georgia, commented, “We had a peace march on Jan. 9, 2016. 1000 women dressed in white, followed by 100 men wearing black. We, as wives, mothers, grandmothers, and sisters must stand up and be willing to fight for our future.”
Ethel Harris, of Atlanta, Georgia, stated, “People, in general, have what is known as a “diversion of responsibility” mentality. They expect that someone else will help or do something about a situation. When everyone is diverting the responsibility to another, in many instances, nothing is being done. Unfortunately, many just don’t want to get involved until it hits home! Not to mention, those who simply fear retaliation by the parties involved in the act….there are times when the responding officers, when they decide to come, will divulge who called them….that does create concern!”
Jeanette Smith, in Maine, from Maryland, commented, “I have seen people shot in both states. It seems ironic to me that bullets cannot see color. I have seen guns pointed at all colors of the rainbow, from people I know, and toward those, I am familiar with. I have even been shot at! I am sure the one who held that gun knew nothing about me, including color. No, I did not call the police. I am sure they were there.”
Evelyn Dunlap, of Chicago, Illinois, claimed, “We need to stand together, bind together, call 911 and not be scared of this generation. Go to this mayor’s office regardless, and tell him we need to pick our own superintendent for the black community only we need legislation for remaining anonymous. This is ridiculous. Also, a law passed for anyone caught hiding a killer in these streets. will do half the time the killer does. Our people have become fragile and weak to this demonic force that has been placed upon us and has brought havoc to our communities, purposely. Yes, praying is great but God gave us common sense, as well. We have nowhere to run, or hide. This is causing destruction in every black community across this country. Now, you tell me why….I know….they are and have distorted the minds of (especially) the black male thru these evil rap lyrics to hate, kill, and destroy their own people. We know music carries a spirit. Be it love, party, chill, and now, kill and destroy.”
Trust is either earned or naturally expected. The police department is supposed to be one of the naturally trusted entities in everyone’s life. Really? At one time, in this great United States that citizens call home, students of all nationalities would stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The last sentence, “with liberty and justice for all,” has been questioned by people of color for quite some time.
When the citizens see a Chicago Police Department police car riding around proudly displaying their motto, “We Serve and Protect,” they are now wondering what that really means, they serve and protect who? Again, the question is raised–Why have the Chicago Police Department shootings caused residents to be scared to call 911?
Opinion by Linda F. Odom
Edited by Cathy Milne and Jeanette Smith
CNN: Chicago (CNN)
CBS News: Chicago Police Kill 2 during Domestic Disturbance Call
Chicago Tribune: FBI investigating another fatal shooting by Chicago police
Paul Biasco: How Chicago Police Hope Body Cameras Will Restore the Public’s Trust
Facebook: Linda Odom Personal Page
Image Courtesy of Stephen Melkisethian’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License