While Chicago officials repeatedly tell the public they’re working to be more transparent, honest, and accountable, their actions continue to leave more to be desired.
One example is that of recent cases where two officers were accused of brutality against those they swore to “protect and serve.”
Two Chicago Police Officers were accused of using excessive force on separate occasions. The first involved Officer Brett Kahn arresting multiple partygoers in July 2014, which included him hitting one of them in the head while holding a collapsable baton. The second took place in July 2015 when Officer Todd Johnson stepped on the neck of a suspect while trying to restrain him. The suspect later died in the back of a police van.
While both instances were captured on video, only Kahn was charged with a crime while Johnson was able to walk away cleared, according to the Chicago Tribune.
While the victim in the July 2015 incident, Heriberto Godinez, was found dead in police custody, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez pointed to the autopsy’s claims that he actually died from complications of cocaine ad alcohol in his system.
Despite video evidence showing Johnson placing his foot on Godinez’s neck, the autopsy didn’t reveal any signs of physical trauma. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t occur and wasn’t illegal. The fact that Godinez died for something else while in police custody, after a clear use of excessive force, doesn’t mean that the excessive force wasn’t illegal.
“They didn’t charge them with one thing?” said Godinez’s sister, Janet. “So that goes to show that any cop in the city of Chicago can go ahead and do the same exact thing and they won’t be charged. But if one of us did this to an officer, we’d be in jail very quickly.”
Meanwhile, Kahn, who has been placed on paid desk duty, turned himself in last Thursday and was charged with excessive force after video footage showed him slamming a woman onto the hood of a police car and soon arresting a total of five people, including Jeremiah Smith.
Kahn claimed that he hit Smith with either his baton or “a weighted punch” after Smith tried to punch him, while video footage shows no such punch. Smith was booked on drinking in public and later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge to get out of jail after 12 days. He later joined the woman who was slammed on the police vehicle for a lawsuit that was settled for $100,000.
Charges being cleared in one case is already a bad look for a city government looking to regain the public’s trust and hold police officers accountable. But it’s also concerning that it’s taken this long for these cases to even be heard.
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