Thursday, December 03, 2015

It's time to post about IT

As I write this, there's a mass shooting unfolding in San Bernardino. Just days ago, there was a mass shooting in Colorado Springs. Both of those instances are tragic. But they aren't what this post is about.

My hometown is being held together with chewing gum and twine. So, what's going on here in Chicago takes precedence over what's going on out west.

We'd all heard about "the tape." After all, the incident happened a year ago. The existence of the dashcam video was well known. We knew that, when we eventually saw it, it would show a kid being shot 16 times by a cop. BUT we also had been told that after watching the video, we'd feel conflicted. We would understand how a cop could feel threatened enough to fire. The shooting victim was a big kid, high on PCP, waving a knife threateningly.

I believed that. Because I like cops. I like firemen and the military, too. I like people who are willing to go into harm's way on my behalf.

Last week we finally saw "the tape." It only took a moment to see we'd been lied to. Multiple police cars surround a kid who is walking up the middle of the street, a knife with a 3" blade in hand. He is not waving the knife menacingly. It's at his side. He had been slashing tires, and now he's obviously trying to get away.

A cop gets out of his squad car and shoots. The kid goes down. The cop empties his gun, firing 15 more times in less than 15 seconds.

Watch it and there will be no doubt in your mind. You know you're witnessing a murder.

Each of those multiple cop cars contained two officers. None of those policemen did anything to try to stop their fellow officer or save the kid.

It is chilling.

The kid, Laquan McDonald, was not a hero. He got high, grabbed a knife and went out to destroy property for his own amusement. I'm not in favor of this behavior. But, being a civilized human being with a funtioning brain, I also realize vandalism should not be punishable by death.

The city is furious. 
•  At the police dept., for tacitly protecting the cop after he fired and not the citizen they are sworn to protect.
•  At the state's attorney who took a year to charge the cop.
•  At the mayor, who didn't release the tape antil last week, and that was because a judge ordered him to do so.

And so the city protested for three days. At City Hall, on State Street, and most famously along the Mag Mile on Black Friday. I'm proud to report that both the protesters and the police behaved as well as can be expected, far better than I thought possible. We managed to escape the destruction that plagued Baltimore and St. Louis.

The result is that the CPD is under tremendous scrutiny. Rahm Emmanuel fired the police chief and appointed a prestigious panel to examine police practices and culture. While I support this move, the timing scares me. With ISIS threatening to disrupt our shores with terrorism, I'd prefer to have an experienced police chief at the helm, and right now we don't.

And the city has a heartbreaking problem with gun violence. Chicagoans are killing other Chicagoans at a stunning pace. 22 more have been murdered since the last I posted about this on November 14.

I'm upset. We're all upset. These are troubling times in Chicago.