The LaQuan McDonald killing and the problem of criminal police

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What happens when the police are the criminals?

The city of Chicago settled with the family of LaQuan McDonald for $5 million, in connection with the October 20, 2014, fatal shooting of the 17-year-old by a police officer. Johnson was shot 16 times, including nine times in the back, and a total of six police officers have been named in connection with the cover up.

Despite news of this settlement, LaQuan’s family will never be made whole, because nothing can replace the loss of one’s child. And we still need to hear more about the police deleting 86 minutes of a surveillance video of the incident from a nearby Burger King. The feds are investigating the killing, as they should, but the investigation, trial and conviction, if any, will not resolve this fundamental question: Why are the police allowed to harbor criminals in their midst?

The question goes far beyond the usual justifications for these police shootings whenever they occur. We are told that we simply fail to understand how difficult the job of policing really is. And we are always told, like the case of LaQuan McDonald, that the suspect had a knife, a gun or some other weapon and was a threat, and the cop feared for his life.  What is apparent is that if being a cop is that difficult for some and too much for them to handle, those individuals should quit the force. Even more obvious is that a certain element of officers should be behind bars as we speak and never should have been issued a badge and a gun in the first place.

If this is what the police are all about, then we need to find another way to protect our children and communities, because none of this is working out, at least not for black people.

Police departments tend to reinforce a gang mentality where a blue wall of silence allows for the police to commit and cover up crimes. Further, those good officers who choose to speak up against the abuse and corruption place their own lives in danger. They receive death threats from other officers, or their superior officers cannot guarantee their safety. Perhaps when they call for backup, no one will come. Still, there are others, such as the National Black Police Association, National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Black Cops Against Police Brutality (B-CAP) and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) who speak out against racism and the plague that the war on drugs has brought to our communities.

As for Chicago, the city is no stranger to harboring thugs and gangsters in their police department. After all, this us the police gang that assassinated Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in his bed in a hail of nearly 100 bullets. This is the police force that allowed Commander Jon Burge and his detectives to torture over 100 black men in South Side and West Side stationhouses from the 1970s to the early 1990s — even placing innocent men on death row and leading the city to set up a $5.5 million reparations fund for torture victims. Meanwhile, the city had spent $20 million defending Burge and $100 million to settle the police torture lawsuits.

The pattern has been repeated in other cities as well. Police departments allow a core of rotten, violent and corrupt officers to permeate the culture — that 15 percent of who will abuse their authority, beat and shoot pregnant women children, the elderly and handicapped to death and not give it another thought. It should be no surprise that police, who are allegedly sworn to protect and serve, have a huge domestic violence problem that is greater than the NFL, and two to four times higher than the general population. According to the National Center for Women and Policing, two studies have found that at least 40 percent of police officer families live with domestic violence, and the most common form of discipline is counseling. Victims of police officers are particularly vulnerable because police have a gun, know where their victim lives, and know how to game the system to escape punishment or blame the victim. Exactly how can the public expect the police to handle domestic violence situations when police are far more likely to beat their own loved ones? And we certainly know what they will do to a black child on the street they don’t even know.

Meanwhile, Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was just acquitted for his role in the 2012 shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. Brelo — who had shot at the black couple 15 times, as part of a police barrage of 137 bullets — was arrested four days after his acquittal for a drunken brawl involving his twin brother. The officer and his brother are now facing assault charges.

Bad police are able to get away with murder because their criminality is protected, by other officers or superiors, by some elements of the public, and by the media who criminalize blacks as a criminal element and typically give all officers the benefit of the doubt and treat them like heroes. And police, tuned into their traditional role as slave patrol, view themselves as an occupying force and maintain an “us vs. them” mentality. We are “them” just as LaQuan McDonald was “them.” And if we do not turn around the problem of criminal cops, more LaQuans will follow.

Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove