Earlier this month, the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force released a damning report regarding misconduct within the Chicago Police Department. Between 2008 and 2015, seventy-four percent of the victims in the 404 police-involved shootings were Black, in comparison to fourteen percent of Hispanics and eight percent of Whites. Data concerning traffic stops, street stops, and vehicle searches also reveal a significantly disproportionate targeting of Black people. The public has been able to recognize that, while shocking, complaints alleging these injustices are far from new. Yet there is a noticeable hesitation towards accepting the fact that the outrage felt upon reading this report should be directed towards ourselves, in addition to the CPD and the mayor’s office.
Simply put, the mistreatment of Black Chicagoans has persisted for so long because we, the public, either did not believe those who came forward with allegations of misconduct, did not care, or sadly, both.
How else do we explain the seemingly relentless stronghold of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police on measures that so much as hint towards police accountability, or the pervasive silence from city council officials regarding the more than $500 million paid out in police misconduct lawsuits while simultaneously decrying the city’s insufficient budget?
Accountability does not appear out of thin air, and while we can be glad that it has begun to manifest in the wake of the Laquan McDonald extrajudicial murder and cover-up, one can only imagine how many lives would have been spared from brutality if we had demanded this same level of accountability after Fred Hampton was executed with the help of the State’s Attorney, or after victims of torture in the infamous Homan Square first brought their experiences to the public.
Instead, we fell right back at the feet of CPD as they requested more funds and pushed the narrative that anyone drawing attention to their misconduct must be satisfied with escalating levels of gun violence, even as activists, organizers, and teachers attempted to draw the connection between intrapersonal violence and divestment from community-based resources.
We continued to believe that those whose lives had been taken by police were in some way guilty of anything other than being Black and poor, and for that, our city will continue to be haunted by the shock of seeing the life stolen directly from Laquan McDonald’s body.
We cannot rewrite the past, but if Chicago is to declare the findings of this report its ground zero, we’ve got to do more than vote out an unresponsive and seemingly corrupt State’s Attorney or cheer at the appointment of a Black man as interim Chicago PD. This could mean a variety of things, from pressing forward with the task force’s recommendations of creating a citizen-controlled police accountability body, to pushing for a reallocation of resources from CPD’s bloated budget to Chicago’s grossly underfunded public schools.
But the starting point should always be to believe the Black community when we maintain unjust treatment at the hands of a particular institution; after all, reports like these just end up affirming what we have been saying since what seems like the beginning of time.
Photo credit: Wiki Commons