Viewing entries tagged
La Risa Lynch

Movement To Dump IPRA, Police Board Gains Momentum

Movement To Dump IPRA, Police Board Gains Momentum

BY LA RISA LYNCH

Frank Chapman has long been critical of Chicago’s top officials — including a City Council that shelled out more than $500 million in taxpayer money to settle police brutality cases over the years, and a mayor and police force that uphold a system allowing such abuses.

Chapman talks a big game — but the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) is backing it up with a solution: a civilian police accountability council (CPAC).

“CPAC would take the power from the mayor, from the City Council, from the Independent Police Review Authority, from the Police Board, from the Internal Affairs Department and put it in the hands of people who live in the police district. They will have the power,” said Chapman, an organizer with CAARPR.

The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has been advocating to establish an elected civilian police accountability council since 2012. But the group says City Council members have yet to fully embrace the idea even as they call for reforms in the police department in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Outrage over the dashboard video showing the fatal shooting of McDonald being shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke ignited days of protest in Chicago streets with marchers and activists demanding reforms in the Chicago Police Department and the mayor’s resignation.

Protestors chants at the Magnificent Mile during Black Friday November 27, 2015 at a protest in memory of Laquan McDonald, backed by Reverend Jesse Jackson and other elected officials. Protest have been happening since the release of dash cam video of the killing of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke. (William Camargo)

Protestors chants at the Magnificent Mile during Black Friday November 27, 2015 at a protest in memory of Laquan McDonald, backed by Reverend Jesse Jackson and other elected officials. Protest have been happening since the release of dash cam video of the killing of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke. (William Camargo)

Protesters have demanded a federal probe into the police, the state’s attorney’s office as well as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s  administration to see if steps were taken to suppress the video until after the mayor won a heated runoff election. Additionally protesters have asked for a “real” independent police oversight council that can effectively and unbiasedly investigate and prosecute police crimes.

While the mayor’s resignation seems unlikely, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a civil rights investigation into the police department, which signals a win for protesters. But their cry for a truly independent civilian police oversight board could be closer than most think if City Council officials buy into the idea.

Backing CPAC, Chapman noted, would end rubber-stamp payouts that take place without broader police accountability.

“They got exposed in the Laquan McDonald case,” Chapman said. “This is their chance. If they want to try to right some of the wrong that they’ve done then they can support CPAC.”

Anatomy of CPAC

CAARPR’s proposal would replace both the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) and the Chicago Police Board with a civilian-led council made of residents publically elected from each of the city’s 25 police districts. The latest push for the civilian board comes as IPRA, the agency that investigates police wrongdoings, faced criticism over its lack of transparency, which some advocates say favors police and has led to a paucity of disciplinary actions for serious police misconduct complaints.

Between March 2011 and September 2015, 28,567 abuse allegations were filed against CPD officers, yet less than 2 percent resulted in any punishment, according to the Citizens Police Data Project, a new database that analyses police misconduct complaints. Since IPRA’s inception in 2007, the agency investigated 400 shootings and found only two “unjustified.”

CPAC would have the power to investigate allegations of police misconduct and police shootings, refer cases to the federal grand jury for civil rights violations and fire police officers. CPAC would also have the power to appoint the city’s police superintendent and rewrite the police rule book including use of force guidelines.

But the proposal has not been yet introduced in the City Council. Though half a dozen aldermen have expressed interest or are sympathetic to the cause, none has publicly committed to supporting CPAC yet, Chapman said.

Among those interested, Chapman said, were Aldermen Rod Sawyer (6th) and  Toni Foulkes (16th) who did not return calls seeking comment. Random calls to council members including, Joe Moreno (1st), Howard Brookins (21st) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) to gauge where they stand on CPAC were not immediately returned.

“We are organizing people in the wards to get the aldermen to pick it up. This is a political campaign,” Chapman said comparing it to the people-driven movement that got Harold Washington elected as Chicago’s first black mayor. “We do not want to go to the aldermen without the backing of the people. That’s the bottom line.”

In the meantime, CAARPR has set up committees in Englewood, Austin and Woodlawn — communities with a high incidence of police violence — to advocate for systemic change in the department.

Currently there are more than 200 civilian police oversight entities in the country. Many consist of a mix of volunteers and appointed personnel, though their powers to investigate and punish officers vary. If enacted, Chapman noted CPAC could be the only citizen-elected police oversight board in the country.  Also  many grew out of Department of Justice investigations similar to the federal probe currently underway in Chicago and were created by public vote, state or city statute similar to a case in Pittsburgh.

The 1995 the fatal shooting of black motorist, Jonny Gammage, by Pittsburgh police officers led to the approval two year later of a citizen police review board via public referendum after several early attempts failed. However, the board’s recommendations are non-binding and must be approved by the city’s police chief, a situation that can render some citizen review boards powerless.

Pittsburgh’s citizen review board highlights a myriad of challenges that can  erode the effectiveness or authority of police oversight boards including  who sits on them. Members should be credible enough to weigh community interests with that of city government — a balancing act that IPRA continually gets wrong, according to critics. IPRA’s investigators mostly consist of retired or former police officers while the Chicago Police Board has been derided by activists as being a rubber-stamp board filled with mayoral appointees.

Other hurdles to establishing is pushback from police unions.  New York City experienced such a situation in 1965 when it attempted to include civilians on a police review board. Police unions railed against the idea which was eventually defeated in a citywide vote. Nearly two decades later, the city re-established civilian oversight of the police.

St. Louis also faced a similar situation. The shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by a white police officer last year in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, fueled calls for civilian oversight of the police. The city’s police union opposed the idea, saying that it would “restrain” officers from performing their duties. After contentious debate, St. Louis approved in April a measure to create a citizen oversight board, which some say doesn’t go far enough because it lacks subpoena power.

In Chicago, a growing chorus of politicians and community leaders are lending their voices to dump IPRA. Chicago’s South Austin Community Coalition Council has signed on to support CPAC, but Elce Redmond, an organizer with the west side group, recognizes there will be resistance from the Fraternal Order of Police, the state’s attorney’s office and “the powers that be.”

“Once you start saying there is going to be an independent authority looking over the police, then it is going to expand to looking over politicians and they really don’t want that,” Redmond said, adding that it opens the door for “politicians who are culpable in many of these situations” to be prosecuted as well.

When reached for comments, the national Fraternal Order of Police referred comments to the local chapter. Dean Angelo, Sr., president of the Chicago FOP chapter, did not return calls or respond to emailed questions seeking comment.

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) has called for a federal probe into the mayor’s and state’s attorney’s office. He’s also called IPRA “a sham, a shame and a disgrace” that has lost all credibility. He welcomed any effort to create a “real independent board” even if through the ballot box, but cautioned that elections have their downside when money is involved.

“You don’t necessarily get the best and the brightest running for public office,” he said. “You get the person who has the most money [or] can put the most money in places [to] fund people and then actually control them.”

Protestors chants at the Magnificent Mile during Black Friday on November 27, 2015. (William Camargo/City Bureau)

Chapman balked at Boykin’s comment. He questioned why a politician would be suspect of the process that got him elected to office. But Chapman noted that CPAC’s elections will be different because they will be decentralized where residents from each police district vote for a CPAC member..  

“Why would an elected official be against an election?” he asked. “How in the hell did he get into office. Here you are an elected official saying you don’t trust elections because they are corrupt. We are not talking about professional politicians. We are talking about people who live in [those police] districts.”

Damage control

Attorney Standish Willis has been here before. The civil rights lawyer called for civilian oversight of the police when torture allegation surfaced under former commander Jon Burge. Burge was convicted of lying to federal prosecutors about torture allegations and was sentenced to four years in prison. He was released in 2014.

“I think it is worth fighting for [but] I don’t have confidence that the City Council will pass it because they are not that independent,” Willis said.

But he praised CAARPR for their continued push to create an elected civilian police accountability council. The group began pushing for CPAC soon after the death of Rekia Boyd, who was shot and killed by a Chicago police detective in 2012.

“It’s always good to raise [the issue] because I think people that pay police should have control over police, especially in the context of what police have been doing over the years with people of color, particularly black people,” Willis said.

Instead both the mayor and City Council are in damage control mode. Emanuel made an impassioned speech before the City Council December 9 taking ownership and then apologizing for the McDonald shooting, though his critics continue to call for his resignation. The Council’s Black Caucus later released a 7-point plan to reform the police department — none of which called for creating a truly elected civilian police board.

Those reforms, however, did include a mandate that CPD “stop shooting people in the back,” prosecute police officers who file false reports, appoint a special prosecutor in officer-involved shootings and include community members on the mayor’s blue ribbon task force on police accountability.

Meanwhile, the police shootings of McDonald, Boyd and Ronald Johnson and the subsequent payouts demonstrate the need for elected civilian oversight of the police, added Ted Pearson, CAARPR’s co-chair.

A Chicago Police officer shot and killed Johnson, who was armed at the time, but was running away from police. No charges were filed against the officer involved in the shooting.

“The only way we are going to solve this problem is when the people are in charge of the police. It is not such a radical concept. It is a very democratic one,” he said.

But Pearson blasted Emanuel’s appointment of Sharon Fairley as the new IPRA chief after Scott Ando resigned, a day before the Justice Department  announced its investigation into the Chicago Police Department.

“They are rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic,” Pearson said. “The ship is in trouble and they are trying to save it just by rearranging things. It’s not going to result in any changes until we have real community control of the police.”

This report was published in collaboration with The Chicago Defender. Additional reporting by Eleanore Catolico.

Chicago Activists Explain Why Black Space Matters

Chicago Activists Explain Why Black Space Matters

BY DARRYL HOLLIDAY and MARTIN "XAVI" MACIAS

Just minutes before the Chicago Police Department released a video Tuesday of a white police officer shooting a black teenager to death, several groups of black activists marched to Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez’s office on the near west side of Chicago to attend a community forum. She had waited too long to charge officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, they said. It was more than a year after the October 2014 shooting and the charges came only after a judge had ordered the release of the video showing his death.

But the activists declined to give interviews to reporters flanking them during their public demonstration. One woman told a journalist he was taking up “valuable black space in an action about black suffering.” After not being allowed into Alvarez’s community forum, the protesters regrouped at a nearby gallery and asked reporters to stay out of the “strictly black-only space.”

Activists made it clear to reporters and allies that the action Wednesday was a space organized and led by black youth. (Martin Macias/City Bureau)

Veronica Morris-Moore, an organizer with Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), told reporters, “This is a space where black people are trying to process this right now. . . . I understand this is a public sidewalk but I need you to respect these people in here if you want to talk to them . . . [and] not look like you’re here to capture a circus show.”

This desire to protect not just black lives but “black space” is a tactic that has been embraced by activists and explored by writers in recent months, starting with the highly publicized incident at the University of Missouri when a young journalist was barred from an activist camp on the campus quad, and later at Loyola University, when students stood in solidarity with Mizzou organizers by barring media from a public event on the Chicago campus.

Claims to “black-only” space are as much a defense as they are an action, activists say—a defense from manipulative messages, as well as a proactive strategy to reclaim the protest narrative. A distrust of media, political figures, and public opinion has grown in the absence of meaningful reform.

Chicago’s organizers drew this connection during last week’s protest, when an activist next to Morris-Moore told a man livestreaming the protest on his phone to “stop filming—she said stop.”

Morris-Moore continued to address reporters and onlookers: “I’m asking if you could respect us. . . . You don’t have to, but if you have any half of decency in you, please leave. Don’t stand here.”

In the weeks leading up to—and the days following—the release of the Laquan McDonald video, young black activists from groups including FLY, Black Youth Project 100, Assata’s Daughters, Say Her Name, and Black Lives Matter had intentionally stepped away from establishment figures. Organizers declined an invitation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday to discuss the video’s release. They called for a media blackout of the “black-only” march on the night the video was released.

“Black people please meet at Roosevelt st and Halsted Ave at 5:30pm. This is a space for Black rage for Black people,” a BYP100 Facebook event page read.

The call for a black-only protest space prompted both support and opposition from allies of all races:

For some, the request for “safe spaces” seemed as foreign as it did unnecessary. Why advocate for the racial segregation that blacks had spent so long fighting? Why hold allies of all other colors at bay?

“We need to figure out how black people can get space, understanding that space is also time. Black people, especially poor black people, do not have space to heal from [trauma] or even combat [police violence]. Time is a luxury,” LaCreisha Birts, an organizer with BYP100, said in an interview.

It’s a sentiment that some people had trouble understanding. Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has dismissed demands for black space as “crazy” and said Black Lives Matter protesters are “looking for trouble.”

“They wrongly assume we all enjoy such luxury and are blindly seeking something even more extravagant,” author Roxane Gay wrote in Error! Hyperlink reference not valid.. “They assume that we should simply accept hate without wanting something better. They cannot see that what we seek is sanctuary. We want to breathe.”

The rejection of establishment politicians, media, and nonblack people served two main purposes, according to interviews with members of several activist groups: To create black-only spaces that would make it easier to grieve the loss of black lives and to retake the narrative of the “black man or woman shot by white officer” story, which they said had been hijacked to create a spectacle worthy of mass consumption. Activists were fed up with media accounts that they said had twisted their message in order to inflate page views, without giving voice to their demands, including calls for Mayor Emanuel, police superintendent Garry McCarthy and Alvarez to resign, and for Chicago as a whole to invest in the economic and educational opportunities of disenfranchised communities of color.

For example, while the activists planned memorials and public demonstrations, city officials emphasized a call for peace:

“People have the right to be angry. People have the right to protest. People have the right to free speech, but they do not have the right to commit criminal acts,” McCarthy told reporters at a press release designed to mitigate any violent response to footage of McDonald’s death.

“We are prepared to facilitate people’s First Amendment rights to free speech, but we will be intolerant of criminal behavior here in the city of Chicago,” he said.

The underlying assumption, activists said, was that young black people are likely to riot and commit criminal acts. By spreading the pleas for peaceful protest coming from public officials, they said, media was endorsing the idea that violence was impending.

But there were no riots. With few exceptions, the peaceful protests were filled with chanting, spoken word, and over the weekend, a rejection of Black Friday consumer culture as it traveled down the Magnificent Mile shopping district and throughout downtown on five consecutive days.

“We are organizers—we are strategic, not random people who show up to a march,” said BYP100’s communications director Camesha Jones. “People have a right to protests. We support that—it’s righteous rage.”

But just as public officials and the media fetishized black anger, organizers said, so too did they sensationalize black death, creating an unending loop of violence made normal by round-the-clock coverage. Nowhere was that as blatant as in the highly-criticized-then-deleted tweet from the Daily Beast with a GIF of McDonald dying on video.

Later in the week, Morris-Moore described her mixed feelings on the media’s interactions with activists: “Media has both been doing harm to our cause and at the same time getting our message out there.”

Multiple activists said the biggest problem was that reporters only showed up to big protests and demonstrations to cover the mayhem aspect, rather than discuss the causes for which organizers advocate on a regular basis.

“Who is interested in covering this in an objective way—and who has an angle they are trying to perpetuate?” Jones asked.

Of the hundreds of protesters who filled Chicago’s streets Tuesday night, police arrested five on charges ranging from resisting a police officer to aggravated battery. (The most serious charges were reserved for Dean M. Vanriper, a 38-year-old white man from Murrieta, California, according to police.)

Activists joined hands at Roosevelt and Halsted before marching through the city streets November 24. (Martin Macias/City Bureau)

Activists joined hands at Roosevelt and Halsted before marching through the city streets November 24. (Martin Macias/City Bureau)

Those arrests are the statistics media will focus on, according to Jones: “They are focused on the violence and not the demands. That includes the violence of the police and suspected violence of protesters.”

“One of the things that media gets wrong, for me, is that the movement for black lives only sees police brutality as a problem and doesn’t have a scope or sphere about what community violence looks like,” BYP100 organizer Max Boykin said. “We see community violence and we see it as part of this larger problem of state violence against black bodies.”

Organizers with several Chicago-based activist groups joined hands outside of the Cook County courthouse November 25 for the release of BYP100 member and acclaimed spoken-word poet Malcolm London, who was charged with aggravated battery by police the night before—charges that were later dropped.

“We are poised to march as long as needed,” said BYP100’s Charlene Carruthers, as a crowd of activists waited for another protester to be released from court. “This did not start last night and it didn’t end last night. We are marching in protest of constant, structural racism by the Chicago Police Department.”

The marches will no doubt continue but the young organizers may not have to wait long for media and political allies to fall in line. Even now, major news outlets and politicians are calling for some of the same measures groups like BYP100 and Black Lives Matter have pushed in recent months, including a federal investigation of the Chicago Police Department and the firing of McCarthy and Alvarez.

If and when those demands for accountability become mainstream, the difference between public space and black space may not seem so far apart after all.

This report was published in collaboration with the Chicago Reader. Additional reporting by Ronald Reese, Michael Key, and La Risa Lynch.

 

After months of protests, the city acts on the police-involved shooting deaths of Laquan McDonald and Rekia Boyd

After months of protests, the city acts on the police-involved shooting deaths of Laquan McDonald and Rekia Boyd

BY LA RISA LYNCH

Superintendent Garry McCarthy has begun the process to fire Dante Servin, the veteran police detective who fatally shot 22-year-old Rekia Boyd nearly three years ago in North Lawndale and set off months of protests.

McCarthy will file administrative charges with the Chicago Police Board Wednesday against Servin—only the second time McCarthy has moved to terminate an officer in a police-involved shooting.

The decision comes in parallel with the impending release of a video showing another fatal police shooting, in which an officer allegedly shoots 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, which city and community leaders have said could lead to massive protests. The officer involved in that shooting was indicted on murder charges today, the Cook County state’s attorney announced.

Meanwhile, Boyd’s brother Martinez Sutton, who has led the dogged fight to hold Servin accountable for his actions, applauded the decision but added, “I’ll be even happier if they actually did their jobs and had him in jail just like the rest of the criminals.”

In September, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), recommended Servin be fired. McCarthy had 90 days from that ruling to accept or reject the agency’s recommendation. Protesters have packed Police Board meetings for months, even shutting down the August meeting, criticizing McCarthy’s for the protracted process to fire Servin, who has been on the force since 1991. That prompted the often stoic superintendent to make a rare apology for the slow process.

In concurring with IPRA’s recommendation, McCarthy said Servin exercised “poor judgment” in the shooting death of Boyd in March 2012.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy listens to comments from attendees during the November Police Board Meeting. (Jonathan Gibby/City Bureau)

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy listens to comments from attendees during the November Police Board Meeting. (Jonathan Gibby/City Bureau)

“After considerable deliberation, I have come to the conclusion that Officer Dante Servin showed incredibly poor judgment in his efforts to intervene in a low-level dispute while off-duty,” said McCarthy in a statement released to the media.

“His actions tragically resulted in the death of an innocent young woman and an unthinkable loss for a Chicago family and community,” the statement continued. “In the end, CPD has rules that we all must live by. Officer Servin violated those rules and he’s going to be held accountable for that.”

IPRA, the agency that investigates officer-involved shootings and police misconduct allegations, found that Servin violated several rules in the Boyd shooting. It also found Servin that provided inconsistent statements about the event and said that shooting into a crowd of people was “inattention to duty.”

Earlier this year, Servin faced criminal charges in Boyd’s death but was subsequently acquitted on a technicality. Servin faced several charges including involuntary manslaughter. But a Cook County judge dismissed the charges in April, ruling that Servin’s actions didn’t amount to reckless conduct but an intentional act that warranted a first-degree murder charge instead.

According to court testimony, Servin argued with Boyd and her friends about loud noise near Douglas Park before shooting at the group, killing Boyd and injuring another man. Servin, who shot over his shoulder while in his car, claimed self-defense because he thought someone had drawn a weapon, though none was found at the scene.

Servin is the second cop in an officer-involved shooting recommended for termination by McCarthy. The first is officer Francisco Perez, who IPRA recommended be fired this summer for making false statements and “inattention to duty” for firing at the wrong car in a 2011 drive-by shooting.

In October, McCarthy filed administrative charges against Perez, who was also off-duty working security at a restaurant in the 1100 block of North Ashland at the time of the shooting. His and Servin’s fates now lay in the hands of the Police Board.

But Servin’s dismissal won’t come any time soon. His case now goes before the full Police Board for a hearing, and Servin has several chances to appeal the board’s decision, if unfavorable.

Sutton took little solace in McCarthy’s late-evening announcement recommending Servin’s firing. He questioned “what the big holdup was” in McCarthy’s decision, which Sutton said could have been announced at last week’s Police Board meeting.

The struggle to bring about justice for his sister has been a long hard fight to get Servin charged in criminal court, only to see him get off on a technicality. But it was an even harder fight to get him fired, Sutton said. He added that true justice would be to see Servin behind bars.

“I’m happy that they recommended that they fire him. I’ll be even happier if they actually did their jobs and had him in jail just like the rest of the criminals,” he said.

“It sucks in a way,” he said. “I do not like the way this system is. It wasn’t designed for the people. It was designed to protect the police officers just in case they get into trouble. And that is exactly what’s it’s been doing.”

 

Martinez Sutton holds an illustration of his slain sister, Rekia Boyd, during the November Police Board Meeting. (Jonathan Gibby/City Bureau)

Martinez Sutton holds an illustration of his slain sister, Rekia Boyd, during the November Police Board Meeting. (Jonathan Gibby/City Bureau)

While the wait is not over for Sutton and his family, it has begun for the city as it prepares for the release of a graphic video tape showing the shooting death of McDonald.

McDonald was shot 16 times by officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014, in Archer Heights, after McDonald allegedly refused to drop a four-inch knife. Last week a Cook County judge ordered the release of a video showing the fatal shooting.

The judge set a deadline of November 25 to release the video. But the teen’s mother, according to news reports, does not want the video released because she fears its graphic nature could spark a riot in Chicago like that in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.

Ferguson erupted in protests, then fiery riots, as demonstrators clashed with police after a grand jury refused to indict the white police officer who fatally shot unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown. The video’s release and the pending indictment of Van Dyke comes on the anniversary of the Ferguson riots.

In preparation of the video’s release, Mayor Rahm Emanuel convened a meeting Monday with community leaders and activists to ask for calm as the deadline approaches. But several organizations that have been at the forefront calling for justice for Boyd and others victimized by police rebuffed the mayor’s invitation.

Instead in a press statement, they decried the mayor’s effort to control “black people’s response to the execution” of McDonald. Members of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), Assata’s Daughters, We Charge Genocide, Black Lives Matter: Chicago among others “believe that the community has a right to respond as it sees fit,” the statement said.

“We have no faith that the same Mayor that allowed people to starve for 34 days over a school, will be accountable to black people just because we respond calmly to a documented hate crime committed by a Chicago police officer,” the statement said. “We also believe that leaders do not reserve the right to police people’s emotions. Our responsibility is to organize public energy into impact.”

This report was published in collaboration with the Chicago Reader.

Two Shooting Deaths, Two Paths to Justice

Two Shooting Deaths, Two Paths to Justice

BY LA RISA LYNCH

Just hours after the city of Chicago stunned many onlookers by agreeing to release video of the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old boy, the brother of another black Chicagoan shot and killed by police donned a familiar uniform of all-black clothing to attend a Chicago Police Board meeting, which he’s done every month for about half a year.

“I’m just asking that you fire him,” said Martinez Sutton Thursday night, clearly frustrated by police superintendent Garry McCarthy’s continued silence on punishment for Dante Servin, the Chicago police officer who killed his sister, Rekia Boyd, near Douglas Park in March 2012.

 

Attendees raise their fists in protest during the November Police Board Meeting at the Chicago Public Safety Headquarters on November 19, 2015 (Jonathan Gibby/City Bureau)

Attendees raise their fists in protest during the November Police Board Meeting at the Chicago Public Safety Headquarters on November 19, 2015 (Jonathan Gibby/City Bureau)

“I am tired of coming here . . . every month,” he said, pounding his fist once on the podium before imploring the standing-room-only crowd to raise their fists for a full minute in Boyd’s honor. In solidarity, the crowd, a multiethnic and multigenerational mix of supporters—some wearing yellow T-shirts embossed with “#SayHerName”—chanted “I am Rekia Boyd” for a full minute.

“It was my sister’s birthday this month,” Sutton said. “She would have been 26.”

The Independent Police Review Authority, the agency charged with investigating police misconduct and officer-involved shootings in Chicago, recommended Servin be fired in September, making him the second Chicago officer recommended for firing in an police-involved shooting since IPRA began in 2007. However, Superintendent McCarthy has yet to announce his decision on whether he accepts or rejects IPRA’s recommendation.

Critics of McCarthy’s deliberation, including Sutton and the City Council’s Black Caucus, have recommended the superintendent be fired as well.

By law, McCarthy has 90 days from September 16 to make a decision on Servin’s future as a Chicago police officer; his time runs out December 15. After protesters demanded a response again Thursday night, he responded that “it’s still being worked on.” The next public Chicago Police Board meeting is set for December 9.

Just hours earlier, another due date was set, this time by a judge who ordered the release of a video showing the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. The 17-year-old was shot dead by police officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014, in Archer Heights after McDonald allegedly refused to drop a four-inch knife. The judge set a deadline of November 25 to release the video, and despite initial reports that the city would appeal the decision, a statement released by Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that it would comply.

Advocates claimed victory in court’s decision, but the west-side teen’s family may not share the sentiment—McDonald’s mother reportedly doesn’t want the video released for fear the video of a Chicago police officer shooting her son 16 times could spark a wave of anger and violence that could tear the city apart. Others who have viewed the video have agreed that the brutal nature of the video (McDonald is reportedly shot mostly in his back even after he fell to the ground) would lead to protests and social upheaval.

So far the city has spent nearly $10 million in total settlements for both cases ($5 million for McDonald’s family, $4.5 million for Boyd’s), but justice for the two families took different paths to arrival Thursday. And with looming decisions coming to a head in both cases, a turning point for either could be announced any day.

“I fear how the video release is going to impact [Laquan’s] family. I’m much more concerned with people over property,” Charlene Carruthers of Black Youth Project 100 said Thursday. “What I expect the reaction to be with the video is that people will continue to organize, like we’ve been doing . . . around structural changes within the Chicago Police Department and the broader city of Chicago.”

That push for change has been especially evident in mass ongoing street protests and via social media through trending tags like #JusticeForRekia#SayHerName, and #FireServinNow; all largely driven by Sutton, known on Twitter as @IAmRekiaBoyd.

The Chicago Police Board votes during its November 19 meeting (Jonathan Gibby/City Bureau)

The Chicago Police Board votes during its November 19 meeting (Jonathan Gibby/City Bureau)

Meanwhile, in the absence of a decision from McCarthy, Sutton and his supporters have begun to suspect ulterior motives behind the Police Department’s delay.

“I got a feeling that he is going to resign before you make [your] decision,” Sutton told McCarthy and the police board Thursday night. “That’s my feeling. He is going to resign and get off scot-free.”

Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression activist Lacreshia Birts isn’t ruling that eventuality out—and resignation has precedent in Chicago: at least 57 officers resigned between 2011 and 2015 despite “sustained” investigations against them, according to newly released Citizens Police Data Project data.

“I think that is definitely a possibility that McCarthy is buying Dante Servin enough time to resign,” Birts said. “If he resigns, he may still find another job in another city, and that is unacceptable. He needs to still be fired. Even if he still resigns they still need to take away his pension.”

This report was published in collaboration with the Chicago Reader.

Top Cop's Apologies Fall on Deaf Ears as Servin Decision Lingers

Top Cop's Apologies Fall on Deaf Ears as Servin Decision Lingers

BY LA RISA LYNCH

Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy came ready Thursday night, Oct. 15 for the throng of protesters who, as they have for the past few months, packed the Chicago Police Board’s meeting to demand detective Dante Servin be fired.

Servin was charged and subsequently acquitted on a technicality after fatally shooting 22-year-old Rekia Boyd in March 2012. The Independent Police Review Authority recommended in September that the veteran officer be fired—a first in the board’s history. McCarthy has 90 days from the ruling to accept or reject the agency’s recommendation.

“I apologize we don’t have it done yet,” McCarthy said, referring to the case. “We still have 60 days, and I am not going to put a time frame on this, but I will guarantee you that it is not going to take that long. But tonight I cannot sit here and tell you where the case is. That is a little premature based on what we do.”

At Thursday’s meeting, McCarthy tried to appease protesters’ ire over the protracted process to separate Servin from the department. He said that the department’s attorneys are still looking at the case “to determine the correct charges and all the legalities that need to go forward to bring a good case in front of the police board.”

Still, that did not satisfy a litany of speakers who told Police Board members and McCarthy that a decision to dismiss Servin had dragged on long enough. Servin, who was off-duty at the time of the 2012 shooting, fired his gun over his shoulder while inside his car.

According to court testimony, Servin argued with Boyd and her friends about loud noise near Douglas Park before shooting at the group, killing Boyd and injuring another man. Servin claimed self-defense because he thought someone had drawn a weapon, though none was found at the scene.

Servin faced several charges including involuntary manslaughter for Boyd’s death. But a Cook County judge dismissed the charges on a technicality: Servin’s actions didn’t amount to reckless conduct, the judge said, but an intentional act that warranted a first-degree murder charge. The unusual decision spurred more protests by Boyd’s family and supporters, who took control of a Police Board meeting in August before it was abruptly shut down.

IPRA, which investigates officer shootings and allegations of police misconduct, made its recommendation to the Chicago Police Department to fire Servin three years after the shooting.

Protesters line up outside the Police Board meeting Thursday. Some speakers at the meeting called for McCarthy’s resignation.

Protesters line up outside the Police Board meeting Thursday. Some speakers at the meeting called for McCarthy’s resignation.

Protesters line up outside the Police Board meeting Thursday. Some speakers at the meeting called for McCarthy’s resignation.

Mike Siviwe Elliott of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression was one of the speakers Thursday night. In his remarks, Siviwe Elliott said that IPRA’s recommendation was a direct result of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and pressure from community activists and Boyd’s family. His group has been pushing for an elected civilian police board to replace IPRA and the Chicago Police Board, members of which are currently appointed by the mayor.

“So we are not going to thank you for that [recommendation to fire Servin], because you owe us that,” he said. “You been owing us that for a long time.”

“It’s not supposed to take three years to fulfill a sworn duty,” said Aislinn Sol, a member of the activist collective BlackLivesMatter Chicago. “You had three years, McCarthy. You don’t need 60 days.”

The City Council’s Black Caucus called for McCarthy’s firing earlier this month after a bloodier-than-usual September, saying that McCarthy has “failed” their communities. Several speakers Thursday also pressured McCarthy to either take action or resign.

It’s been over three years—March 21, 2012 is when my sister got killed. I didn’t get an apology from the mayor. The superintendent didn’t apologize to us. She is just dead.
–Martinez Sutton

“Stand up or step down,” said LaCreshia Birts, a member of CAARPR and Black Youth Project 100. “All actions taken by CPD start and end with you, McCarthy. … Stand up and hold police who commit crimes against civilians accountable.”

As the last speaker was called to the podium, some in the audience stood up and chanted “Fire Servin now.” Afterward, the group gathered outside Chicago Police Department headquarters to hold an impromptu rally. Boyd’s brother Martinez Sutton, 32, addressed the crowd.

“It’s been over three years—March 21, 2012 is when my sister got killed,” Sutton said. “I didn’t get an apology from the mayor. The superintendent didn’t apologize to us. She is just dead.”

Sutton also expressed disappointment that the decision to terminate Servin has yet to come, saying he finds it hard to understand how a man who committed what a judge deemed murder could still be a free man working at the Police Department.

“This decision should have been made back in 2012,” Sutton said. “It should take no 90 days at all.”

This report produced in collaboration with the Chicago Reader.