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Police union accuses ‘media bias’ of painting police shooting as unjustified

Police push back protesters near the scene where an officer fatally shot a man Saturday evening in South Shore. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

The Fraternal Order of Police is accusing an “activist, one-sided” Chicago media of “ramping up every angle they could muster to paint” the police shooting of Harith Augustus as “unjustified,” even though the shooting was “text book legitimate.”

“This shooting by the police was entirely justified,” FOP President Kevin Graham was quoted as saying in a post on the police union’s blog.

“The offender refused to obey the lawful commands of the police.”

Under Graham’s leadership, the FOP has taken an aggressive stand against what it calls the “wrongful conviction movement” and against politicians and the news media the union accuses of championing that cause.

The FOP has also accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of “turning his back” on the police and being too quick to agree to multi-million dollar settlements to resolve allegations of police abuse.

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President Kevin Graham at a panel discussion in May on civilian police oversight. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President Kevin Graham at a panel discussion in May on civilian police oversight. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

On Monday, the union accused the news media of “ramping up every angle they could muster to paint” the shooting of Harith Augustus as unjustified “before even the barest facts were verified” about the shooting in the 2000 block of East 71st Street.

“Even after the department released the video of the incident to stem this hysteria, the media is pounding an anti-police message from the incident and giving full voice to hysterical claims of people and activists without double-checking their claims or holding their organizations accountable,” the union said.

The post specifically cites a Chicago Sun-Times headline that read, “Anger, anguish, searching for answers.”

“This bias and self-generated hysteria by the media demonstrates a profound indifference to the burden of a police officer being involved in such an incident, even when, as in this case, the shooting is textbook legitimate,” the union said.

“Media bias, the intense apathy toward the police, makes policing almost impossible in Chicago. Every officer knows that even when he or she acts appropriately, there is a band of reporters aching to destroy their reputations and denigrate their actions.”

That intense media bias forces politicians to “cater to the media’s anti-police narratives” to stand any chance of attracting the media attention politicians need to get elected, the union said.

“The Chicago media, therefore, contributes heavily to the body count every month in Chicago and to appallingly low clearance rates in homicides,” the union said.

The blog post goes on to express disappointment that Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and other top brass did not “take a stronger stand against the lawless protestors and their false claims.”

“Just last week, Superintendent Eddie Johnson marched with Father [Michael] Pfleger and his supporters who were calling for an end to violence,” the union wrote of the July 7 protest that shut down all northbound lanes of the Dan Ryan Expy.

“For that very purpose, the department sent in a foot patrol to the 3rd District. Officers stopped an individual with a gun. The offender pulls it and gets killed. What is it these protestors want from the police and why is the media stoking so much hysteria about it?…The FOP and its members have had enough of Chicago’s activist, one-sided media.”

Augustus was shot by a probationary police officer near the South Shore barbershop where he worked.

In the brief and silent body-camera video released by Johnson on Sunday, at least four officers approach Augustus to question him.

Source; Chicago Police Department

When one officer reaches for Augustus’ right arm, Augustus pulls away. After a struggle, Augustus spins his body toward a police vehicle. That’s when his shirt flies up, revealing a weapon on his right hip. The edited video released by CPD freezes on the gun for about two seconds.

Protests erupted quickly Saturday night, injuring four officers. People taunted officers with chants of “murderers” and “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” One officer was hit with the bottle of urine, and people also threw rocks. Police eventually tried to push protesters back, hitting at least a dozen people with batons.