The video release of Laquan McDonald’s murder at the hands of law enforcement has exposed a major breakdown in the fabric of Chicago’s men in blue. To complicate matters further, a recent report has now confirmed that, at times, Chicago police purposely damaged dash cameras to disable them. Maintenance records for the department’s squad cars reveal extensive delays in fixing the intentionally destroyed cams.
Back in December DNAinfo Chicago reported that out of 850 dash cams within the Chicago Police Department (CPD), 80 percent of them were malfunctioning due to “operator error or intentional destruction,” according to the investigation by the police department. The investigation also revealed records that confirm officers pulled out batteries and stashed microphones in squad car glove boxes to avoid recording incidents.
On the night McDonald was shot and killed, reports show that Van Dyke’s dash cam only recorded video, no audio. Out of the five dash cam-equipped squad cars present at the teen’s murder, only two captured video footage and just one had a working microphone. The broken dash cams did not become an issue for the police department until the audio-free video came out showing McDonald’s murder. To the delight of many, Van Dyke is charged with murder in that case.
The long-awaited video footage was released more than a year after a judge ordered it. It showed the accused officer getting out of his car and shooting the 17-year-old multiple times. Authorities reported that McDonald was hit 16 times as Van Dyke emptied his cartridge into the teen’s body. Many of those shots were fired after the boy was already on the ground. The video shows a chilling and graphic episode of police brutality at its best!
After the reports surfaced which confirm Chicago police purposely damaged dash cams it seems to be no strange matter that the officer’s equipment was not working to full capacity. Van Dyke’s cam was broken for months prior to being fixed in June 2014 and was mysteriously broken again the following day. This time, the repair did not take place until October 2014; it recorded no audio the night of the teen’s shooting.
The department has made it clear since that time, that officers who damage their equipment will not be tolerated, and reportedly, several of the men in blue have received short suspensions for this reason. Since then, the department stated there has been an increase of 70 percent in the amount of video recordings which have been uploaded after officers’ shifts.
After the uproar following the release of the video, former police Supt. Garry McGarthy was replaced with interim police Supt. John Escalante, who admitted the failure of dash cam systems are definitely a concern for the department. He issued a warning to officers alerting them of their responsibility to ensure equipment is working properly while they are on patrol. Escalante’s scolding to the officers included:
When you get into that car, test the in-car camera and the audio. Make sure it’s working. That’s your responsibility. If the system isn’t working and officers didn’t report it we are going to take disciplinary action.
Unfortunately, a teen had to be shot 16 times before the Chicago Police Department instituted any type of change. In times past, reports confirm that officers purposely damaged their dash camera units. Microphone antennas were destroyed or went missing, mics were stashed in squad car glove boxes, batteries were removed and some of the systems had no microphones at all. If this does not confirm the crooked and brutal behavior of law enforcement, nothing will. It represents police brutality at its finest!
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
DNA Info: 80 Percent of Chicago Police Dashcams Don’t Properly Record Audio
Complex: Report: Chicago Cops Broke Their Own Dashcams
NY Mag: Chicago Police Have Been Sabotaging Their Dash Cams
Top Image Courtesy of Bart Heird – Flickr License
Inline Image Courtesy of John W. Iwanski – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of C. Holmes’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License