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Monday, February 18, 2019

When public officials refuse to release a video that shows alleged misconduct by a police officer, you should only expect the worst.

That’s particularly true in Chicago, where one “bad apple” too often has signaled a bushel of cover-ups and other problems underneath.

Such are the suspicions that haunt the city’s stalling for more than a year the release of a dashcam video that shows white police officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots into the body of black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel denounced the behavior as a case of one allegedly bad apple. Yet the video and various actions taken before and after the shooting point to systemic and institutional problems that extend far beyond one allegedly trigger-happy cop.

Why, for example, did the city sit on the dash-cam video for more than a year before a judge ordered its release on open-records grounds?

Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have said the time was needed to conduct proper investigations. But compare that to the Cincinnati case last summer in which black driver Samuel DuBose was fatally shot on camera by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing during a routine traffic stop.

The video, which contradicted Tensing’s account of being dragged by DuBose’s vehicle, was released and Tensing was charged with murder and fired from the department in less than two weeks.

The Chicago video similarly refutes a police union spokesman’s allegation of McDonald lunging at police with a knife on the night of Oct. 20, 2014.

Instead it shows the teen, reportedly with PCP in his system, holding a small knife but moving away from police when Van Dyke opens fire — and inexplicably keeps firing at McDonald’s flinching body on the ground. Only Van Dyke fires his weapon and none of the estimated seven police officers on the scene moves to help McDonald. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder.

Then there’s the question of what happened to video from a security camera at a nearby Burger King. A district manager for the restaurant chain has said police visited shortly after the shooting and were given access to the surveillance equipment. The next day, he has said, a portion of the video was missing.

Witnesses to the shooting told Jamie Kalven, an independent journalist and human rights activist whose nonprofit called the Invisible Institute filed a FOIA request to have the dashcam video released, that police tried to shoo witnesses away from the scene after the shooting instead of collecting names and other information.

And why, many wonder, did the mayor persuade the City Council to authorize a $5 million settlement for McDonald’s family, which had not filed a lawsuit. Emanuel claimed a desire to avoid jeopardizing the case. But Chicagoans with long memories — like me — wonder whether the cash is reparations or a form of hush money.

The city fought to conceal the video, even after the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and a freelance journalist all filed FOIA requests for its release.

To Kalven, the most important issue here is not just the shooting but how governmental institutions — from the police to the mayor’s office — responded to it, he says.

“And at every level,” he told me in a telephone interview, “we can see they responded by circling the wagons and creating a narrative that they knew was completely false.”

Kalven’s institute worked seven years to open up police files and establish an online database of misconduct complaints against police officers — 97 percent of which resulted in absolutely no disciplinary action.

Among other issues, Chicago and other cities will have to determine, like the rest of us, how to adjust to the new video age, an age that exposes so much to public view that used to be swept under various rugs.

The McDonald video reveals the flipside of the so-called “Ferguson effect,” a widely alleged tendency by some police to hesitate before responding to crime scenes for fear of getting caught in a career-ending cellphone video. If fear of video can prevent atrocities like that revealed in the McDonald case, that’s not a bad thing.

(E-mail Clarence Page at


Demonstrators hold signs bearing the name of Laquan McDonald during protests in Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015 reacting to the release of a police video of the 2014 shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white policeman, Jason Van Dyke. REUTERS/Jim Young

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21 responses to “A ‘Kill-And-Cover-Up’ Police Culture?”

  1. JPHALL says:

    The problem is that old habits are hard to break. In most organizations ways are establish to protect members from outside scrutiny or punishment. And this ways are hard to break. Too many have bought into the system that does not require them to be held responsible for their actions.

    • Insinnergy says:

      However the only way out of this mess in this case, is extreme transparency and a new watch dog organisation that is not involved locally, or reliant on the police.
      Otherwise, with stats like “30 years without an officer being charged”, no-one trusts them.

  2. bcarreiro says:

    Act upon its nature, refrain should be the first tactic. Parents,guardians and teachers have to communicate to our children, make education more appealing. Give them some motivation to look forward to by setting a goal that can be achieved with good grades. We don’t work for nothing. Giving them hope to achieve that goal provides determination and appreciation for their accomplishment should be rewarded with a field trip at the end of the year or let them tell you.

  3. bcarreiro says:

    Law enforcement officials aren’t above the law and shouldn’t hide behind it, God don’t sleep.

  4. So many police departments, with the complicity of political entities, are hell-bent on behaving like the Gestapo or the KGB. It’s as though a conscious effort is being made to transform America into a “Police State” with all the trappings of “Seige Mentality”, “Paranoia”, and a yearning for the “laager” mentality of Apartheid South Africa.

    One political Party has been particularly keen on fostering this type of atmosphere.

    • RED says:

      Listen to these violent blue thugs talk, it’s always “good vs. evil.” What these ignorant 8th grade educated ‘roid rage thugs are too dumb to get is no one ever thought they were bad guys, not the Gestapo, not Hitler, not Nazis, all those people felt they were protecting society from the “bad.” They were incredible sick and wrong but it’s what they believed. And this is the same mentality of the violent blue thugs, anything is justified is the pursuit of getting the “bad people.” And they only have to cover up because the outsiders don’t understand the tough choices police think they have to make. Of course it’s all total nonsense and it’s our fault for allowing this mythology and lies to perpetuate. And now it must stop or the U.S. will be no more, not even the pretend one. Perosnally I’m sick to death of “police put their lives on the line every day” crap!! Being a cop isn’t even in the top ten most dangerous jobs in the U.S and usually when cops are killed it’s in an automobile accident just like every else, except of course for extra risk of the cowboy cops trying to run down people for traffic tickets and putting everyone at risk for their adrenaline rush.

  5. Eleanore Whitaker says:

    The growth in lack of accountability comes all too easily. It has been more than 2 decades that the US has been “warless.” So, we now live in a society where war, violence and hatred for an ordered lawless society is the rule rather than the exception.

    The more violent men in society grow, they more their lust for power grows. Absolute power absolutely corrupts.

    Right now, you have 2 Republicans who are very public figures, Chaffetz and Fiorina. Both of who got away with any accountability for that bogus film they had edited to slam Planned Parenthood. Now, they want to bastardize the 1st Amendment as a right to be reckless and irresponsible and not be held accountable for their words and actions. Where’s the surprise?

  6. A_Real_Einstein says:

    It is time to put an end to this. It is not about a few bad apples but rather a culture of deciet, corruption and murder. As long as they all cover for each other there are no good cops. They are all bad. I am not taking this anymore. They are supposed to protect us not kill us. It seems the KKK has traded in their hoods for badges. Disgusting.

  7. RED says:

    This is till a question? Seriously? Only the most moronic, bigoted, lying, blind idiots could possibly still consider it a question as to whether the legal system especially the violent police thugs is corrupt and rotten to the very core!!! Land of the free? You gotta be kidding me!! The land of the free sure puts a lot of people in prison and that’s just the ones they haven’t gunned down in the street or kept economically destitute outside of prison walls. Disgusting!! Something is terribly wrong with a society that locks up so many people. The U.S. is certainly “exceptional!” The people are exceptionally poor, the prison rates are exceptionally high, and the gun violence rate in the most exceptional in the world!

  8. bikejedi says:

    I live in Chicago and IMAX law enforcement although I was not a Chicago police officer. The author of this story has this thing all wrong it isn’t a code of blue that protected that officer for a year and two months this cover up was ordered by Rahm Emanuel. Rom was running for reelection in wanted to ensure that reelection so we ordered Gary McCarthy to cover it up the proof of that is that he was allowed to stay on the police force for a year in 2 months. I’m also ordered Anita Alvarez our state’s attorney not to charge the officer. Now no code of blue or no Police Chief could’ve gotten the States Attorney to not charge the officer . This was orchestrated by Rahm . I am also use text paid money to fight a court case to try to block the video from being released the judge told him from jump I couldn’t win this case. Only when it was apparent that the video was going to be forced to be released did Anita Alvarez charge the officer one day before that videos release. Anita Alvarez and Rahm Emanuel should both be investigated for obstructing justice. Then they should be getting charged with obstruction of justice. Of course that isn’t going to happen because who watches the watchers anotherdemocrat? I need an address will not investigate charge for Cell and she won’t investigate Rahm Emanuel because she was in bed with Rahm on this. Or Democrat state attorney general also will not investigate room she never will investigate a Democrat this state is so fucking corrupt it’s beyond belief. But let’s not blame the police or a coat of blue this was a coverup orchestrated by Rahm Emanuel

    • A_Real_Einstein says:

      Rahm needs to go. But you are total idiot if you do not believe that the blue code exists in every P. D. in the country.

    • Insinnergy says:

      That may be so… but everyone then has to agree and “be in on it”.
      No honor.

      • bikejedi says:

        Most of Chicago believes it was orchestrated by 3 individuals . Rahm who was running for re-election and had motive . He also is the only one who could’ve had the other two fall in line ..The other two are our States Attorney Anita Alvarez who chose not to file charges against Van Dyke right up until her hand was forced and Police Chief McCarthy who was Rahms hand picked lackey to begin with and acted like a trained talking Parrot parroting everything Rahm said and told him to say since he got the job . Today Rahm fired him and made him the scapegoat to deflect blame from where it belongs . McCarthy got the biggest stab in the back for his loyalty this City has ever seen …I’m sure Rahm’s wealthy donors will reward him dearly for his silence after that . I’m sure they and Rahm can’t afford him turning on him after he gets that knife out of the small of his back ..

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        • Insinnergy says:

          Explain the seven other cops at the actual shooting.
          And the ones that wiped the security cam footage.
          And the others at various levels who knew what happened but said nothing.

          Orchestrated by 3… sure.
          Carried out by all.
          No. Honor.

          • bikejedi says:

            There were 9 other cops and I don’t know where anyone got the idea that anyone wiped any footage ..The only car pointed at the incident had the only relevant footage

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    • bcarreiro says:

      It’s time for accountability no matter who you are. Protocol than there’s reverse protocol. Untouchable now but karma always finds it’s way back…twice as hard.

      • bikejedi says:

        We can only hope Karma lands on Rahms head because every Chicagoan knows he was the one with Motive ( he was running for reelection) and the only one who could’ve orchestrated States Attorney Anita Alvarez and Police Chief McCarthy to go along with the cover up .. It’s going to be up to the media to bring so much pressure that someone over Alvarez like our State’s Attorney General (Lisa Madigan )to investigate and charge Rahm ..At the press conference last week Rahm stated no one is above the law and the officer is going to have to account for his actions ..Let’s hope the same holds true for him and the fact he obstructed Justice for a year and two months ..Our Media here is,totally liberal and the Attorney General is a Machine Democrat who only got elected because her Dad is the most powerful figure in this State ..So we will see. My guess is Rahm lied and it will turn out he is above the law

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        • bcarreiro says:

          Media has to follow thru. Accuracy over ratings. Accepting responsibility means taking accountability for your actions. Shortfalls should be subject to ones salary as to paying the price for taking ones life…reckless.

    • paulyz says:

      Exactly. Why he was BO’s chief of staff, but quickly filled, (inherited) Blago’s House seat. That’s the types of people BO & Chicago have in politics, crooks. With election coming, Rahm had to sweep this under the rug. (Not a Republican in site, my, my!) What’s a Lib to do?

      • bikejedi says:

        So I see you get it …where’s the smiley face emoticon

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  9. Daniel Max Ketter says:

    The racist police are the thugs, not their victims.

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