On Monday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the US Justice Department would be investigating the use of force and deadly force from the Chicago Police Department. This announcement was made just weeks after footage was released of LaQuan McDonald being killed in cold blood by Officer Jason Van Dyke and during an onslaught of footage being released from other cases involving the CPD. But, the opening statements in Attorney Lynch’s speech stuck with me and made me question if her office’s intervening in the ongoings of the CPD was actually going to address the underlying problems there.
Attorney Lynch opened the talk by noting that American’s deserve law enforcement that is “effective,” “respectful,” and “constitutional.” Then, she followed up by saying
“Each day, thanks to the tireless dedication from men and women who wear the badge, citizens from coast to coast receive just that. But when community members feel that they are not receiving that kind of policing, when they feel ignored, let down, or mistreated by public safety officials there are profound consequences for the well-being of their communities. There are profound consequences for the rule of law. And, for the countless law officers who strive to fulfill their duties with professionalism and integrity.”
While I understand that Attorney Lynch has a broad base of constituents to be concerned about, I do not understand the colorblind, noncommittal language in her speech.
First, these comments suggest that most police officers are saints. The comments about citizens from “coast to coast” receiving the policing they deserve ignores the fact that a majority of people of color do not feel safe around police officers including school children. Increasingly, we are seeing stories of young people of color who have beenvictims of violent, harsh, and reckless actions from police. So, clearly, the citizens Attorney Lynch is speaking of are not people of color.
Second, Attorney Lynch frames the conversation as if Chicago residents simply don’t “feel” like they are being treated fairly by the CPD. Her words suggest that the problem lies in perception rather than actuality. This is another fact that simply isn’t true. The Chicago Police Department has a long history of brutality and torture which has been shrouded in a code of silence on specific cases. These are not issues of perception. They are actual, documented cases of police violence which have yet to be acknowledged as a national issue.
Lastly, Attorney Lynch closes the introduction with the typical “one bad apple” trope we hear over and over again. By making the police authorities who “fulfill their duties with professionalism and integrity” victims of this issue, Lynch is undermining the very real claims of grievance Chicago residents have had for so many years. They should be the core focus in these issues not the people involved in a system of oppression which seeks to destroy and occupy their communities.
At no point in the comments did Attorney Lynch make the problem of hyper-policing of young Black and Brown people a larger issue. She didn’t imply that we all have something invested in the viablity, preservation, and protection of these communities. And, I can’t help but feel like this was just another example of pomp and circumstance from the federal bureaucracy.
Perhaps only time will tell but I’m not banking on any material change here. I can hope for the best but I won’t be holding my breath for real change in the Chicago PD.
Watch the full speech below:
Photo credit: YouTube
**This article was reposted with permission from Water Cooler Convos.**