In the last few years, thousands of stunning and disturbing acts of violence have occurred. We can all agree that terrorists and violent criminals belong behind bars. But what happens when it is our law enforcement officers that murder or commit crimes? As Americans, how do we live without fear and anxiety when those who vow to “serve and protect” us hurt their own?
The media has been reporting many such instances of late. Chicago is one city that has recently been in the news a great deal. Allegedly, racism is at the root of many reported instances there. From racial slurs to assault to murder, the crimes committed by officers of the law have been reported repeatedly.
A team of investigative journalists and legal experts have documents that project there have been 56,361 allegations of abuse of power, illegal arrest, racist insults and physical violence in the Chicago Police Department alone (Balto, 2015). The numbers are staggering. People are rightfully outraged. The police are the alleged sources of the violence. They vow to uphold the law, yet it is they, at times, who commit the violent crimes. In Chicago, the documented citizen complaint records date back until 1967. One officer alone has fifty-five misconduct complaints in the last five years yet he has not received any disciplinary penalties for his misconduct. For community members, this type of unaccountability is a proven recipe for terror and tragedy.
There are so many law enforcement professionals who truly do good and put their life on the line to bring safety and justice to our communities. So it is confusing and upsetting, to say the least, when it is our law enforcement that does wrong. Public trust has been damaged tremendously. We want people to follow the letter of the law and use the proper channels to address wrongdoing, yet a citizen who files a complaint of officer misconduct in the Chicago Police Department has a one in thirty five chance of departmental review both finding in their favor and any disciplinary action coming to the offending officer (Balto, 2015).
Examples of The Reported Crimes
Laquan McDonald. On October 20, 2014, a seventeen year old teenager was shot sixteen times by Chicago police officer Craig Van Dyke while he walked away. The incident, caught on film, is believed to be one more upsetting example of the crimes that are being committed by those we should trust most. The family was awarded five million dollars before a lawsuit was even filed (Chapman, 2015). Sadly, most of us would agree that one shot to a leg would be enough to stop someone from walking or running away. Instead, the officer felt it necessary to riddle sixteen bullets into a body that was on the ground dead after just a few.
Another city in the media is Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. On August 9, 2014, an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer setting off protests that roiled the area for weeks. An announcement by the county prosecutor set off more protests because a grand jury decided not to indict the white police officer. The reason for the protests over this incident is because of the repeated reports of constitutional violations against the black population in the city. However, thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the country from Los Angeles to New York to protest what is happening (Eligon & Fernandez, 2014). In March, the Justice Department called on Ferguson to overhaul its entire criminal justice system because the city reportedly used its police and courts as moneymaking ventures among many other unlawful acts (Buchanan, Fessenden, Lai, Park, Parlapiano, Tse, Wallace, Watkins & Yourish, 2015). Hopefully, the necessary changes will be successfully implemented.
For most Americans, living well means being safe and being at peace. We respect and appreciate the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. The majority follow the law to uphold it. But more and more, the media portrays unlawful acts in the name of racism. It is causing unrest and anger, even for those of us for whom it does not directly impact.
We all need to believe that good things are happening to make the changes necessary to make our country safe. As we approach 2016, let us hope that the unlawful acts will stop so that law enforcement and citizens alike can live in harmony.
Buchanan, L., Fessenden, F., Lai, R., Park, H., Parlapiano, A., Tse, A., Wallace, T., Watkins, D., & Yourish, K. (2015) What Happened in Ferguson? www.nytimes.com
Balto, S. (2015). Chicago’s Police Problem. http://history newsnetwork.org/article/161306
Chapman, F. (2015). The Police Execution of Laquan McDonald.
Eligon, J. & Fernandez, M. (2014). In Protests From Midwest to Both Coasts, Fury Boils Over. www.nytimes.com