The video-recorded murder of Tyra Nichols, which led to charges against police officers in Memphis, Tennessee, sparked a stir all the way to Chicago, where another recorded death eight years ago sent shock waves across the country and Inspired public demands for police reform.
In the case of Laquan McDonald, a teenager who was shot by a uniformed Chicago police officer in October 2014, the release of the graphic video sparked a public outcry and prompt criminal charges against the officer, Jason Van Dyke, sparking outrage in Chicago Stood up and demanded accountability against the police.
The McDonald’s case led to years of reform efforts, including the departmental rollout of body-worn cameras and a 2019 federal consent decree mandating reforms in Chicago police training, use of force, data management and other areas . but Lawyers involved in the consent decree say the slow reform efforts created an environment similar to Nichols’ death in Memphis.
Nichols, a 29-year-old African American who worked for FedEx and father of a 4-year-old son, was pulled from his car by police officers from Memphis’ “Scorpion” street crime unit for alleged reckless driving. Videos showed her being held down, kicked, punched and teased. Five officers were charged with murder. According to the Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, two other Memphis officers were relieved of duty and three fire department employees were fired.
Officials in Memphis and across the country were fearful that the release of the video of Nichols’ beating death would serve as a civil unrest similar to the deaths of McDonald’s and George Floyd, despite Nichols’ alleged assailants being African American.
When the Chicago Consent Decree was being drafted, community groups pushed for the inclusion of requirements that would limit police power to engage with people suspected of minor and non-violent criminal offenses, as this Kind talks tend to unnecessarily escalate into violence, said Sheela Bedi, a Northwestern University law professor and a lawyer who has been involved in litigation over the decree.
The language was not ultimately adopted, she said, although she added that the city could petition the court to modify the consent decree to include such provisions. He said that without such restrictions on the police, and with the slow pace of compliance of the consent decree overall, real reform appears distant.
Bedi said, “What happened in Memphis could easily happen here.”
There was an assumption of a common thread between both the Nichols and McDonald’s cases. Cover-up by police for own safety. In the McDonald’s case, a spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 initially made a statement describing the teen as the assailant, despite police dashcam video evidence later showing the knife-wielding African American teen retreating. He was shown dead as he had been shot 16 times. Van Dyke, who is white.
In Memphis, police issued a vague statement without any indication of wrongdoing by the officers.
Bedi said that “the kind of brutal violence we see on our TV screens” occurs regularly in Chicago.
During the summer of 2020, when mass protests broke out in Chicago following the killing of Floyd Chicago police officers were caught via body cameras using “unlawful force” against protesters, by police in Minneapolis, he said, noting that the use of force was documented in reports from the city itself and the meeting. Independent monitors reviewing the Department’s progress on the Consent Decree in the Target.
“Those officers are still policing our streets, and that says a lot about the culture and bigotry of the Chicago Police Department, and policing in general,” she said.
a Last year’s Tribune article described how resistant the city and its police Activists continue to face calls for federal intervention on police matters and challenges.
Attorney Craig Futterman, who is director of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the University of Chicago, agreed that a situation like Nichols’s could happen in Chicago because of what he called a toxic, pervasive police culture that turns a blind eye to violence against citizens. glanced at
“What happened to Tyra Nichols was a lot about the culture — the dominant police culture and the culture in Chicago has been and still is resistant to change,” Futterman said, prompting the release of the video of McDonald’s death. Successfully filed a petition in court.
Some academics have called video – especially the sometimes shocking images captured by police body cameras – a main driver for police reform. Two years ago, criminologists and economists at Georgia State, American and Stockton Universities studied eight years of Chicago police complaint data, finding that police bodycams “led to a significant reduction in investigation dismissals due to insufficient evidence, and continued misconduct cases against officers have increased, according to 43-page report by GSU criminology professor Volkan Topalli and three other researchers.
The video can make the difference between a civil complaint thrown out for lack of evidence and one sustained because of clear evidence of misconduct.
“When police officers and citizens give conflicting statements, it can be challenging for investigators to separate truth from falsehood. In these cases, video footage can provide important objective information about the incident and the credibility of the statements of police officers and complainants,” according to the 2021 report.
“Video is definitely a game changer,” Futterman said, adding that video evidence can quickly push police to amend false confessions that often exonerate officers of wrongdoing.
“If there was no video, we would not be having this conversation,” he said. “Was it written only in Memphis (as it initially was) with George Floyd in Minneapolis, or like Laquan McDonald in Chicago?”
After the infamous Rodney King beating by Los Angeles police in 1991, video has changed the law enforcement landscape, not only in solving crimes, but also in verifying the veracity of statements made by officers and community complaints.
But Futterman cautioned that video alone will not solve the underlying problem of violence and mistrust.
“Videos in themselves do not completely dispel racism,” he said. “Videos don’t always tell all the truth, but videos are also a game-changer because they provide real objective evidence of what really happened. This has been evidence that in previous decades … was completely absent.
Unsurprisingly, the topics of law enforcement and police reform have been major talking points in the campaign for next month’s Chicago mayoral election. Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s handling of Chicago police reform and the consent decree has drawn criticism from rival candidates who say they haven’t done enough to implement the court-ordered programs.
Former high-ranking city employees have also criticized the administration’s efforts. Lightfoot first came to public prominence as the chosen chair of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Police Accountability Task Force. She subsequently split with the Emanuel administration, criticizing its handling of crime and reform for not being drastic enough, and launched an ultimately successful campaign for mayor.
Rivals have seized on the lack of progress in implementing the consent decree and a series of staff disputes have fueled further questions about Lightfoot’s leadership on the issue. US Representative Jesús “Chuy” Garcia, a candidate for mayor, Lightfoot has been repeatedly criticized for the firing of Bob Boeck last year, who directed the Chicago Police Department’s Office of Constitutional Policing and Corrections. Boeck was fired after sending emails to reverse a decision to distribute staff to patrols instead of officer training, a move he said would harm reform efforts. Lightfoot previously said she would not “get into the details of a sacked employee sending an email” and described the firing as “palace intrigue”.
Boeck’s firing drew criticism from former Lightfoot administration officials, including former acting police superintendent Charlie Beck, Lightfoot’s former chief of staff Maurice Klassen, and his former deputy mayor for public safety Susan Lee, who argued that it was harming the department’s efforts. Will deliver
A different Chicago police leader, who worked to enforce the department’s federal consent decree, sent a resignation letter to Lightfoot in August 2021, alleging that the CPD’s top leadership was “not interested in pursuing reform in a meaningful way.” failed to show.” Lightfoot downplayed this as one person’s opinion and said the department was making steady progress.
Eld. Sophia King, Fourth, another mayoral candidate, took the criticism a step further this weekend, adding to Lightfoot’s defense of an officer who was suspended but also associations with the Proud Boys in Boick’s firing. Wasn’t fired for lying about.
“Fire the proud boy, not the officer in charge of the consent decree,” said King.
Tribune reporter Jake Sheridan contributed.