By Misha Euceph
Retired African-American Chicago Police Department officers called for an independent federal investigation from the Department of Justice, after meeting at a community center in Auburn Gresham.
“We are calling today for an independent investigation from the federal government,” said Richard Wooten, 18-year police veteran. “We’re not here today to bash anyone, to start an uproar. We’re here today to get justice.”
Wooten and other officers’ request follows the release of a dash cam video showing Jason Van Dyke, a white police officer, shooting Laquan McDonald, a black teenager 16 times; the firing of Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy; and the announcement of the creation of a new police accountability panel by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Wooten specifically distanced himself from the mayor’s initiative, calling it the “mayor’s panel.” “We have our own decisions to make,” he said.
Other officers echoed the disapproval. “This panel that the mayor named is the same type of stuff warmed over again,” said Michael Davis, a retired sergeant.
The task force created by Emanuel includes Sergio Acosta, a partner at law firm Henshaw & Culbertson who has served on several of the mayor’s task forces. Other members are Lori Lightfoot, who currently serves on the Chicago Police Board; Randolph Stone, a former Cook County Public Defender; Inspector General, Joe Ferguson; and Hiram Grau, a former deputy police superintendent in Illinois.
“You know, we truly need some community input in police oversight, in these shootings,” said Michael Davis, asking for civilian review instead of investigations by alleged insiders.
Chicago currently already has two other bodies that review complaints within the police department. The Independent Police Review Authority deals with cases of misconduct including use of excessive force, and “verbal bias-based abuse.” The Chicago Police Board, on the other hand, “decides disciplinary cases involving allegations of police misconduct,” in addition to nominating candidates for the position of Superintendent and other duties. The new task force will “do a top-to-bottom review of the system,” according to the mayor. Many wonder how the new task force will differ from the existing institutions.
In addition to disapproval of the task force and calling for a federal probe, officers denounced the police department’s hiring practices. Pat Hill, former Executive Director of the African-American Police League, stressed that the circumstances surrounding the McDonald shooting result from the hiring practices of the police department, calling Chicago Police Department an “apartheid police department.”
Despite frustration over particular aspects of the police department, the retired officers refused to condemn the entire police department, instead citing a failure of leadership.
“There are thousands of excellent police officers in the city of Chicago and across this nation,” said Davis. “In no way is this an indictment on the police department. It’s an indictment of the leadership of the police department. The tone of policing is set from the top down.”