Mitchell: Is racial bias at heart of police scandal?

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I don’t know how any white person could look at the video of a Chicago police officer shooting Laquan McDonald and think the 17-year-old deserved what he got.

Please, explain that to me.

Because whenever I hear a white person say what happened to McDonald was horrible, then add: “McDonald should have dropped the knife,” I cringe.

Since when did it become acceptable for police officers to use deadly force against someone who is not posing a threat to the officers or anyone else?

What happened to using Tasers?

And were patrol officers so out of shape they couldn’t detain a teen armed with a 3-inch knife?


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Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, charged with first-degree murder for the shooting, has wracked up over 20 complaints of excessive force over his 14-year career, and has been the subject of at least two civil lawsuits.

Van Dyke’s lawyer claims the officer feared for his life when he came across McDonald.

Next week, when the city releases the video showing the fatal police shooting of Ronald Johnson III, the familiar “gang” narrative will likely accompany the video.

The 25-year old man was killed last year by another Chicago police officer, identified as George Hernandez in a federal lawsuit.

Michael Oppenheimer, the attorney representing Johnson’s family, has said the young man was unarmed and that police planted a gun in his hand after he’d fallen.

The police version of the incident is that Johnson turned and pointed a gun at the police officer.

At a press conference last week, a reporter asked Oppenheimer about Johnson’s criminal background.

“Ronald Johnson had a few minor scrapes with the law, nothing major. Even if he had a bad record, which he doesn’t, you have an unarmed African-American man who was shot in the back by the Chicago Police Department, then it was covered up,” Oppenheimer said.

But even if Johnson had been a choirboy, would it really have made a difference?

We keep tiptoeing around what’s really at the heart of the distrust between the African-American community and a predominantly white police department.

It is more than distrust that has led to this scandal.

It is racial disrespect.

A statement made last week by the head of the Fraternal Order of Police after former Supt. Garry McCarthy was fired is a glaring example of that disrespect.

Dean Angelo likened the demonstrators demanding McCarthy’s head to children. He also likened the mayor to a “permissive” parent who was giving into ease “racial tensions.”

“People are screaming for a change. If you have kids that scream for treats, they’ll continue to scream, and demand even more candy, “ Angelo said.

Black people aren’t kids screaming treats.

Black people are Americans demanding justice.

I doubt seriously if Angelo would have viewed white protesters with the same disdain.

All Chicagoans should be outraged over this police scandal.

Because if a police officer shot an unarmed teen in the back and lied about it, that is just as horrifying as a police officer pumping bullets into a teen after that teen is on the ground.

If other police officers watched these atrocities take place and did nothing, they are just as guilty as the officer pulling the trigger.

That these incidents occurred while dashboard cameras were rolling says to me that these police officers didn’t believe they were doing anything wrong.

That’s the scariest part of all.

Tweets by @MaryMitchellCST

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