Chicago’s battle over police accountability

Teresa Albano
8 min readJul 22, 2019
Veteran activist Frank Chapman speaks at a Jan. 9, 2019, press conference to support the Civilian Police Accountability Council in Chicago. Photo by Charles Edward Miller

This article was originally published in The Progressive.

Myles Frazier was in the midst of a mental health crisis when the Chicago Police Department’s SWAT team fatally shot him after a half-hour standoff on May 22.

Police say the twenty-two-year-old black man, who suffered from bipolar disorder, was armed and fired shots outside the building where he had barricaded himself on the city’s predominantly black South Side.

The next day, May 23, two armed people were holed up in an apartment building on the predominantly white Northwest Side. Calls to police progressed from “a man waving a gun around” to “shots fired.” The SWAT team was brought in, and after four hours, a man and a woman were arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault.

“In Chicago, black people are fourteen times more likely to experience [Chicago Police Department] use of force than white people,” said Aislinn Pulley, co-executive director of Chicago Torture Justice Center, at a June 13 press conference called by a coalition of police accountability groups, some of which were plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city. “We have a crisis with policing.”

To be sure, this crisis existed before police fired sixteen shots into the body of black seventeen-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014. Police commander Jon Burge and his “Midnight Crew” of South Side detectives-for one example, were accused of torturing more than 100 suspects, mostly black people, in custody from 1972 to 1991 in order to force confessions. And before Burge, there was the dawn-raid-turned-police- assassination of Illinois Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton in 1969.

But it was McDonald’s death, and the coverup by the police and the city to protect his killer, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, that set in motion a political earthquake in the country’s third-largest city.

In the aftershock, Chicago’s police superintendent was fired, and Cook County’s incumbent state’s attorney was ousted in the 2016 elections. Mayor Rahm Emanuel declined to run at all. A U.S. Department of Justice investigation found racial disparities in the Chicago Police Department’s use of force and patterns of unconstitutional practices. On January 31, a judge approved a federal court-enforceable…

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Teresa Albano

Writers interpret the world in various ways, the point is to change it.