Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Does grand jury mean we view teen’s death as more than lone cop’s acts?

I don’t doubt that Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer now facing criminal charges for the shooting death in 2014 of a teenage boy, probably believes deep in his heart that his actions were justified.
VAN DYKE: Not the lone offender by any means

Regardless of the verdict of any future judge or jury, he probably will go to his grave thinking that the 16 shots he fired at Laquan McDonald were necessary because the 17-year-old was a threat to the public safety.

NOW I’M NOT necessarily saying I think he’s absurd or that he’s a heinous sort of individual. It’s more a matter of my believing that the “us versus them” attitude is so engrained in law enforcement personnel that we’re going to need an outside perspective to determine whether Van Dyke’s acts on that night in October 2014 rose to the level of an offense for which the patrol officer ought to serve prison time.

Or was it really some sort of necessary offense for which the appropriate penalty ought to be that he loses his job? Because the department has initiated the process by which Van Dyke would be dismissed, and likely would carry a black mark of sorts on his record that would make him unemployable to many.

If anything, this is a case that goes far beyond a simple “yes” or “no” answer. If anything, the real story of what happened probably has little to do with Van Dyke himself.

It really is more about why so many people were willing to keep quiet about what happened until it was discovered that a squad car video camera managed to capture enough of the incident to create the horrific images that have since spread throughout the Internet.

THAT “CODE OF Silence” officers supposedly carry amongst themselves worked to Van Dyke’s advantage to the point where it is apparent we would never have even the slightest inkling of truth if that video had not turned up.

All of this rambling becomes relevant because of actions Monday at the Criminal Courts Building where the special prosecutor handling Van Dyke’s case has said she wants to go before a grand jury; letting them decide how extensive the wrong-doing was that night.
McDONALD: No prosecutor can bring him back to life

To what degree did other officers who were at the scene or in the area of the shooting incident commit crimes by keeping their silence about what they saw or heard

Admittedly, the Chicago Police Department already has indicated it plans to discipline a few of these officers, with some facing the prospect of losing their jobs. Which some people may think is a fairly severe punishment in and of itself.

ALTHOUGH THERE ARE others who will only be satisfied with the thought of a criminal cop, which is how they want to view these officers, doing actual prison time.

The more sadistic individuals likely are having fantasies of police officers being assaulted by other prison inmates – which is a sick thought to carry about one’s head.

But the ugliness of the McDonald death, along with the other incidents of violence being inflicted upon individuals by police does tend to express itself in grotesque ways.

Personally, I like the idea of a grand jury becoming involved because it will get us further away from the notion of thinking of the McDonald death as some sort of isolated act by a corrupt cop who, for all we know, may be able to convince a jury that he acted within the letter of the law.

THAT MAY BE true. But it certainly doesn’t make his actions that night morally acceptable. Someone is still dead, deprived of a chance to make anything significant of his young life. Which is a fate no one deserves to endure.
EMANUEL: It's not all Rahm's fault

We need to think of these types of incidents as being something more widespread than a single individual. Which is a thought that will bother some because they’re eager to use the cop hostility as a way of cracking down on individuals.

When what we ought to be thinking of is ways to revamp the law enforcement mindset into something more meant to take the protection of the public into account.

Because the less we think of the police as the thugs unleashed by the mayor whenever he needs a crackdown for political purposes, the better off we all are as a society.


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