The Chicago Police Department is under a microscope for good reason. The Department of Justice is investigating CPD after missteps on all levels regarding Laquan McDonald’s death, reports of an off-the-record “black site” used for interrogation for years, evidence of officers tampering with dash cams and a long list of other offenses.
The latest mark on the list of things CPD has done wrong comes in the form of a video clip. In the clip, someone believed to be a Chicago police officer can be heard over dispatch referring to other officers and a dispatcher as “typical fucking ni–ers.”
According to DNAinfo, the exchange started around 8:30 a.m. one day when an officer contacted a dispatcher to verify if they tried to reach him. The dispatcher responds with “No, boo. It’s too early to be bothering you. Good morning.”
The conversation continued and another officer asked the dispatcher, “How many boyfriends do you have?”
“Why you all in my Kool-Aid? Why you over here?” the dispatcher replied.
A few seconds later, a new voice joined in and said, “Typical f—ing ni–ers.” By the end of the call, an officer was asking the dispatcher to find out what radio made the comment and she claimed she was already talking to her supervisor.
The dispatcher says she doesn’t have access to radio numbers, but it’s clear that the comment came from a fellow CPD officer.
“We want to know their districts, and we are demanding that the mayor immediately fire the officers who made the comments,” Will Calloway, a local civil rights activist told The Daily Beast, according to Fusion. “Not launch an investigation, not put them on desk duty with pay. We want these officers off the streets immediately.”
I have a strong suspicion that, like all similar stories that expose casual and blatant racism within police organizations, and CPD, specifically some will be shocked. Especially with the benefit of added audio.
We’re past the point where finding out there’s racism among police should be shocking. Some may say you should assume it’s there, but I’m not that pessimistic just yet. But I do say that through multiple interactions with the police in my own life.
Like many people in my position, I’ve been pulled over for an imaginary “busted taillight” that I just got replaced a week before. I’ve also had police come into my home uninvited to ask if I witnessed a murder. But neither of these are the moments where I lost my trust for police.
I went to one of Chicago’s many Catholic high schools. While it was pretty diverse –by private high school standards –it was still half-white. Part of getting a Catholic education is that daily religion courses are mandatory. But by the time you’ve had about 10 years of them, the curriculum becomes less about the Bible and more about real-life applications. So, when I was an upperclassmen, we took a class called Social Justice.
One day, for this class, the teacher invited a police officer to come and speak about what he does. We were somewhat familiar with this officer because he often watched over the students that stayed late and was also a parent.
I, in particular, had a couple back and forth interactions with him. The one I remember the most vividly was when he tried to convince me that I’d support the death penalty if a loved one of mine got hurt. That didn’t work so the conversation moved on. But the part that I still think about the most is when he tried to justify racial profiling by the police.
He explained that if he saw a white person in a predominantly black neighborhood, he’d be suspicious and stop them to see why they were there. Now, anyone that’s read up on race relations – or lived enough life – would know that this was code for saying the exact opposite, which is that if he saw a person of color in a predominantly white neighborhood he’d stop them out of suspicion. But he clearly couldn’t say that. Unfortunately, I was only 16 at the time and didn’t realize what was happening.
Now that I’m older, I realize how problematic it is that a police officer would comfortably deliver this message to a group of young people with no shame and not see a problem with it. I may have learned the lesson a bit late, but that day played a direct role in why I’m no longer surprised by racist police officers being exposed.
I say all this to say, putting a bigot in a uniform doesn’t erase their bigotry. We lose when we start to think anything different.
Photo Credit: Wiki Commons