This month for The Appeal I wrote about Baltimore’s Gun Offender Registry Act. At the time it was established (in 2007) Mayor Shiela Dixon touted the GORA as a tool to help reduce gun violence in the city. However, in the decade since it’s creation, the registry doesn’t seem like it’s done much of anything except give the BPD another way to exert control over people’s lives.
Almost four years to the day Jason Van Dyke shot and killed Laquan McDonald, he was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm (one for each shot he fired into McDonald). He will most likely spend decades in prison.
While the verdict is justice for Laquan McDonald and his family, there is still a long way to go and a lot of other people who need to be held accountable. There are questions surrounding what Rahm Emanuel knew regarding the facts of the case and his part in trying to bury the video of the shooting. (Emanuel has already said he will not seek another term as Mayor.) There is also the matter of two CPD officers and a detective who actively took part in covering up the shooting.
Jason Van Dyke pulled the trigger when he fired those 16 shots into Laquan McDonald, but the CPD loaded the gun and handed it to him. Guys like Van Dyke are created by the inherently racist and oppressive nature of institutionalized policing.
Following the verdict announcement, the Illinois FOP almost immediately released a statement calling the trial a “sham” and the verdict “shameful.”
Cops and their unions love to use cases like this to claim it prevents them from being “proactive” in fighting crime. Proactive is just a cop way to say, “we can’t properly violate the rights of citizens if we’re going to get in trouble for it.”
The Baltimore Police Department did the same thing in 2015 following the in-custody death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent Uprising. After the six involved officers were charged criminally, Baltimore Police Union President Gene Ryan said, “The criminals are taking advantage of the situation in Baltimore since the unrest. Criminals feel empowered now. There is no respect. Police are under siege in every quarter. They are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty.”
With that kind of constant rhetoric being spewed by police departments and unions, the culture of policing will never change. Cops will always find a way to make themselves the collective victims because of the actions of “bad apple” cops.
The CPD budget is around $1.5 BILLION. The department is still full of dirty cops and is notoriously racist. Policing as we know it in this country needs to be abolished, torn down. The Van Dyke verdict alone won’t change the culture of policing in Chicago or this country, but it’s a good place to start.
Last month for The Appeal, I wrote about the habit BPD has for simply changing the name of a specialized unit when the officers begin to generate too many citizen complaints or earn negative media attention.
Then today I learned that a former longtime commander in the BPD, Dean Palmere, was named in a federal lawsuit for ignoring the misconduct of plainclothes specialized units that he was in charge of.
“The new filings argue Palmere was in charge of plainclothes units as he rose through the ranks. Rather than hold officers accountable, the filings say Palmere and the department just changed names of the plainclothes units.”
I saw this first hand in my career and I was also a part of it. About a decade ago a specialized unit I belonged to (Special Enforcement Team aka SET) had its name changed no less than three times, all while police commanders assured city leaders we had been disbanded. Around 2007, my unit was merged with the Organized Crime Division (OCD) and it eventually became known as the Violent Crime Impact Division (VCID). The commander of OCD at the time was Major Dean Palmere.
This was, and still is, a regular practice within the department. Simply change the name of the unit while allowing the same troubled officers to remain.