Release the Video: Chicago's Blue Wall of Silence Withholds Police Shooting Footage

By Michael Nam


In a familiar refrain, a police officer who fired the 16 shots on October 14, 2014 that claimed the life of a 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, a Black teen, claimed he was in fear for his life, but the dash-cam video evidence that may shed light on that claim remains out of public view.

The Chicago Tribune reports that despite the unnamed officer’s account, the city’s Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton recommended a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family prior to any lawsuit being filed, and that the FBI had begun their criminal investigation of the incident this week.

The city is apparently using the FBI investigation as an excuse to keep the video from the shooting under wraps, according to the Associated Press.

Although the city’s attorney had cited the video in arguing for approval of the settlement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel explained Wednesday that police and the FBI are withholding it because it is “central to their investigation.” In a statement, city officials said they were “confident this video will be released at the appropriate time when their investigation is complete.”

Such explanations hold little weight when other police departments have released video regardless of pending investigations. Incidents such as the Tulsa, Oklahoma, reserve deputy shooting a restrained suspect allegedly mistaking his gun for a Taser or an officer deliberately running over a suspect in Marana, Arizona, were released within short time frames.

Though, police dash-cam footage from prior to Walter Scott’s shooting death in North Charleston, South Carolina, had not been released beforea passerby turned overthe shocking event recorded on his cell phone camera.

There were several other officers already following McDonald prior to the backup officer arriving, and questions remain as to why those other police officers had not felt the need to discharge their weapons themselves.

From Ferguson, Missouri, to Eric Garner to Walter Scott, the publicizing of what has long been known in the Black community as police predation of Black men has generated momentum for reform. Video footage of actual incidents due to the proliferation of mobile devices, such as in the case of Garner and Scott, has put pressure on police departments to be truly transparent.

Chicago Police has a steep hill to climb in asking for the public’s trust. Their track record has shown a stunning number of police-related shootings in the city, according to the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).

78 percent of those shot were Black

18 shootings were fatal

50 total shootings by police officers

Add to those figures the 120 mostly Black men who were tortured under police Cmdr. John Burge from 1972 to 1991 that has cost Chicago over $100 million in lawsuits and settlements, the onus is on Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department to be fully transparent.

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