Mitchell: Police-community relations debate missing from mayoral election

SHARE Mitchell: Police-community relations debate missing from mayoral election

Chicago Police Officers high-five children walking to Luke O’Toole Elementary School in the West Englewood neighborhood September 3, 2013. | Jessica Koscielniak / Chicago Sun-Times

Despite the protests over police-involved fatalities elsewhere, police relations wasn’t a hot topic during the city’s mayoral debates.

It should have been.

Each year, the City of Chicago pays millions of dollars to settle cases filed against police officers accused of conducting illegal searches, making false arrests, using excessive force and causing crashes.

These police-involved incidents accounted for more than half of the $80,984,116 the city paid in legal judgments and settlements in 2014.

Last week, I asked the mayoral candidates what steps they would take to foster trust between the police and African-American communities.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel pointed to his decision to move “community policing” resources from the Chicago Police Department headquarters to the neighborhoods as a start.

“While we have made great strides in reducing distrust between police and residents that had built up over decades, smarter community policing will remain central to my public safety strategy over the next four years,” Emanuel said in an email.

His challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, also cited community policing as the antidote to abusive policing.

“As mayor, I am committed to creating a culture of respect, and to implementing real and effective community policing,” Garcia said in a statement.

Two weeks ago, a Cook County jury awarded a man $319,000 in a case stemming from a collision with a police car on the night in 2005 when the Chicago White Sox clinched the World Series.

Although the identity of the 43-year-old plaintiff is in the public record, he asked that we not use his name because he is concerned about his safety.

Lawyers alleged that Chicago Police Officer Michael Carroll, who made an unsuccessful run for alderman in the 46th Ward, ran a red light at the intersection of Lake and Kedzie.

The police squad car T-boned the plaintiff’s car with such force the vehicle was knocked into an adjacent vacant lot, where it landed upside down.

According to the lawsuit, the police squad car’s emergency lights and sirens were not activated at the time of the crash.

After the collision, eight squad cars showed up on the scene and two police officers allegedly “drew their service revolvers and pointed them directly at the plaintiff . . . while he lay trapped in the car bleeding, and ordered him to “get [his] f***** hands out of the window,” the suit alleged.

“They kept him like that for close to 20 minutes until the paramedics came and the Fire Department cut him out of the car with the ‘Jaws of Life,’ ” said Rahsaan A. Gordon, the lawyer who represented the plaintiff.

“He was transferred to Stroger Hospital, and instead of investigating the police officer who caused the accident, police gave my client a citation for running a red light,” Gordon said.

A Cook County Judge acquitted the motorist on the traffic violations.

Gordon alleged in the lawsuit that the judicial proceeding against his client was “malicious” and designed to cover up the fact that the police officer caused the vehicle collision.

“I understand police officers can be very concerned about their colleagues, but this was an accident scene and these officers were there to serve and protect. They treated him like a common criminal,” Gordon said.

“This is similar to what is happening in other parts of the country. Everybody should be outraged,” he said.

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