Laura Washington: Zopp isn’t letting Rahm crisis go to waste

SHARE Laura Washington: Zopp isn’t letting Rahm crisis go to waste
SHARE Laura Washington: Zopp isn’t letting Rahm crisis go to waste

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“You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

So said Rahm Emanuel as he embarked on his tour as White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama.

Now a mayor under siege, Emanuel is scrambling to bring reform to the Chicago Police Department and salvage his political career.

Since the release of the video depicting the heinous killing of an African American teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke, Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have been engulfed in a political firestorm.

Their crisis could be also a game changer for other politicians, especially in the March 2016 Illinois primary.

Andrea Zopp is already past “Go.”


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“As the former heard of the Chicago Urban League, I fought for job opportunities and investment in our community,” Zopp declares in a new ad that began airing last week on WVON-AM, Chicago’s black talk radio outlet.

Zopp, an African American and candidate in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, continues: “As a former prosecutor, I indicted a police officer who was convicted and sent to prison for killing a black homeless man. My life had been dedicated to seeking justice and empowering people. I want to take that fight to Washington, and I need your help.”

The ad refers to a 20-year-old police shooting that is becoming a calling card of her campaign. It is the last successful prosecution of a Chicago police officer for killing a civilian.

In 1995, off-duty officer Gregory Becker shot Joseph Gould to death on a River North Street. Becker, 34, got into an argument with Gould, a 36-year-old StreetWise vendor. The men struggled, and Gould was shot in the head. The officer got into his car and drove away, leaving Gould dying in the street.

The incident sparked street protests and an uproar over the treatment of African Americans and the poor by the criminal justice system.

Zopp boasts that in the Becker case, she brought charges “within two months of the killing — without a video.”

In 1997, a Cook County jury convicted Becker of involuntary manslaughter and armed violence. He served four years in prison, but was later freed when the Illinois Appellate court overturned the charges against him.

Two decades later, can justice be served for Laquan McDonald?

Zopp touts her legal experience, including stints as an assistant U.S. attorney and first assistant in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.

Last month, she called for the removal of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez as the prosecutor of Van Dyke, and the appointment of a special prosecutor.

The Zopp campaign is spending $7,500 for the radio ads, the first of her campaign. They will run on WVON until mid-January, and similar video ads will run online, according to campaign manager Bryce Colquitt.

The black vote is crucial to a Zopp win. Also running in the Democratic Senate primary is U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth of the 8th District on the Northwest suburbs, and state Sen. Napoleon Harris, an African American from the South suburbs.

Some might accuse Zopp of being an opportunist, of using Chicago’s crisis to boost her campaign.

Zopp should continue to push, and deploy her campaign to question Alvarez’s involvement in the Van Dyke prosecution. And why it took the state’s attorney 14 months to get around to indicting the police officer — with a video. And why it is so difficult to charge and convict cops who kill? And countless other questions about justice in Chicago.

This is a crisis no one can afford to waste.


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