Chicago police school security guards’ story doesn’t hold up on video

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Dnigma Howard (center) leaves the Cook County Juvenile Center on Feb. 6 with her father Laurentio Howard (left) and attorney Andrew M. Stroth after charges were dismissed against her. | Matthew Hendrickson / Sun-Times

A new video that shows two Chicago police officers punching, dragging and using a Taser on a 16-year-old student at Marshall High School does more than contradict the cops’ version of the facts. It highlights the flaws in the criminal justice system that allows unfit police officers to avoid prosecution.

The new video, obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times, appears to rebut the cops’ version of how they ended up tumbling down a flight of stairs while tussling with Dnigma Howard and using the stun gun on the teenager multiple times

The video shows one officer stepping on the teen’s chest while another officer held her down.

The police officers said the violent encounter followed Howard becoming “irate” and initiating a “physical altercation with the officers” after being told to leave the West Side school.

Howard was charged with two felony counts of aggravated battery against the officers.

But those charges were dropped less than a week later, with prosecutors saying the dismissal was “in the interest of justice.”

I’m old school when it comes to how juveniles should respond to authority figures in school. When a teacher or police officer told us to leave the building, we moved. If we didn’t, they used force. And when we got home, our parents reinforced those orders with some force of their own.

Students who spit on, hit or kicked a security officer, as Howard was accused of doing, just weren’t tolerated.

In an earlier column, I questioned prosecutors’ decision to drop all charges against Howard, arguing the teen should have been held accountable in some way for her role in this debacle.

But if the police lied about how this violent episode unfolded, filing false statements to support their lies, then the force that Howard was subjected to not only was excessive, it was also criminal.

Unfortunately, even though there have been changes made in our criminal justice system since the Laquan McDonald tragedy, holding abusive Chicago police officers accountable is still a convoluted process.

This unfortunate incident took place Jan. 29. And the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, the city agency that replaced the dysfunctional Independent Police Review Authority, is still trying to sort out the truth.

Videos from the cops’ body cameras are still under wraps and have not been made public.

Kiera Ellis of the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said the investigation of the police officers involved “is ongoing.”

“We are working with COPA and reviewing their materials,” Ellis said.

A police spokesman gave a similar response.

But if the teenager didn’t “initiate” the physical confrontation, as the police officers reported, then shouldn’t they be charged with assault and battery?

Instead, rather than face charges, both officers are still on the city payroll more than 60 days later.

Howard’s parents have filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the police officers, CPS and the city of Chicago.

So far, the new system of dealing with cops accused of abusing citizens is looking a lot like the old system.

This latest police outrage comes as Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and the Fraternal Order of Police are in an ugly battle over how criminal cases are being handled.

Ellis pointed out that when prosecutors dropped the charges against the teenager, the FOP’s Martin Preib called the decision “one more example of Kimberly Foxx’s administration refusing to protect police officers in favor of offenders.”

But this new video bolsters Howard’s claim that the police officers attacked her — not the other way around — and supports prosecutors’ position that the charges against the teenager were unjust.

We haven’t heard the police officers’ side of the story and probably won’t for a while.

But this all cuts to the heart of our policing problem. Young people, particularly, are distrustful of police — black, brown, white and other — because of incidents like what was caught on this video.

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