Home » Featured, Headline

Is It Time To Assert Civilian Control of the Chicago Police Department?

Don Rose 18 August 2015 One Comment

You may recall only a few months ago Chicago police officer Dante Servin was charged with “reckless” involuntary manslaughter because he fired five shots over his shoulder from inside his car, pointing toward four youths in a dark alley. He was purportedly aiming at a specific young man because the officer feared for his life–the usual excuse–but instead killed a totally innocent young woman accused of no misbehavior.

The judge immediately threw the case out because State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez had dramatically undercharged the officer. The cop’s action was beyond reckless–pointing a gun at anyone is intentional. It was literally murder, but they cannot re-charge Servin, so he walks, leaving wide open the question of whether the under-charge was intentional. That would not be out of keeping with Alvarez’s record.

Servin was only the second Chicago police officer in the past 20 years to be indicted. Both were tried  for manslaughter rather than murder.

Time and again we’ve seen case after case of police shootings and killings being found justified. Only a few weeks ago we wrote of a Better Government Association report showing that the city’s Independent Police Review Authority had investigated nearly 400 fatal and nonfatal police shootings since 2007 and found only one to be unjustified. At the same time, a longtime investigator for the IPRA said he had found other cases he deemed unjustified, but was ordered to change their finding to “justified.”

It might be noted that three-quarters of the victims of all Chicago  police shootings are black. There are dozens of proposals out there to begin to cope with police shootings, ranging simply from better training to establishing full-blown community policing, which takes time, energy and funding.

The most radical solution, offered by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression, is creating an all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council with multiple responsibilities including rewriting police manuals (especially on the use of force), appointing the city’s police superintendent and having the right to indict miscreant cops. Scores of local organizations and individuals have signed on to a noon march from the Federal Plaza to City Hall, Saturday August 29 to demand passage of an ordinance creating a CPAC.

Historically, nothing creates more vigorous and outspoken opposition by police forces and their unions all around the country than the concept of civilian review or control boards–let alone a board with the ability to indict. On the latter point, several lawyers, though sympathetic to the ideals of such a council, tell me theydon’t think any action by the City Council could accomplish such a change to the local and state criminal justice systems–broken as they may be.

There is also the question of whether this or any mayor would yield his or her right to appoint the city’s police chief.

Nevertheless, even if some of the goals of the movement prove unworkable, the idea of working for community control through the electoral process, like the elected school board, is more than a worthwhile endeavor at this point in history.

The alternative, it would seem, is more Officer Servins, more Fergusons, Baltimores, Clevelands and other deadly spots on the map.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

image symbols of the Carabinieri of Italy, the National Military Police Force.

One Comment »

  • Mike Siviwe Elliott said:

    Don Rose, thank you for sharing an honest and thoughtful article about this critically important matter. I just wanted to add that police violence and violations of our constitutional rights are synonymous and therefore represent a clear threat to any hopes that we have for creating a truly democratic society. This violent threat must be addressed and held accountable without any further delay!

    The “public servants” that we pay though our tax dollars, have basically become violent and racist soldiers who occupy communities of color and terrorize it residents. They operate without any concern for being held accountable for the lawless abuses as mayors, prosecutors, judges, city councils, police chiefs and especially, so-called “police unions”, protect and promote their actions!

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.