EDITORIAL: Four cops are rightly fired — and a city must move on

Chicago must build bridges of trust and cooperation between the police and the communities they serve, especially the African American community.

Imperfect justice has been done.

Four Chicago police officers were fired Thursday night for making up tall tales, all designed to protect a fellow officer, about what went down on the night of Oct. 20, 2014, when Laquan McDonald, an emotionally disturbed teenager, was shot dead on a Southwest Side street.

No matter how much the Fraternal Order of Police union decries it as “injustice,” the firing of the three officers and a sergeant was justified. They had it coming.

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Any unbiased look at the central piece of evidence — a disturbing six-minute, six-second police dashcam video — leads to only one reasonable conclusion: That McDonald posed no immediate threat to any officer.

His shooting by Officer Jason Van Dyke, now in prison after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder, was inexcusable. And the statements of the four officers who have been fired — as well as statements and assertions by other officers and supervisors — were untrue.

They were falsehoods, fabrications or lies. Call them what you will.

But they were not, as lawyers for the officers claimed, just “different perceptions.”

We have to ask, one more time: If factions of the Chicago police were willing to rationalize this shooting — 16 shots — what police-involved shooting would they ever find fault with?

We say only imperfect justice has been done in this case because other officers who were present that night, and supervisors who later coordinated the investigation into the shooting — more cover-up than investigation — were lucky to escape punishment, too. Some retired first. Some faced criminal charges but were found not guilty. Some ducked the threat of sanctions completely.

As for Van Dyke, the fellow officer they tried to protect, he’s now serving a prison sentence that we believe is too short.

But it is time to move on. We deeply believe Chicago needs to.

Our city must build bridges of trust and cooperation between the police and the communities they serve, especially the African American community.

Part of that bridge-building is holding police accountable for serious misconduct. But it will take so much more.

It starts, as we have often said, with vigorous support of ongoing, federally monitored reform, via a consent decree, of the culture and practices of the Chicago Police Department. It continues with building a modern public safety training facility, which a scathing federal review of CPD made clear is sorely needed.

And it will take, as well, an understanding, too often lost, that the police do a tough, dangerous job. Their lives and mental health are at risk on a daily basis. They need the city’s support to do their job effectively while respecting civil liberties. Cops, too, have to get a fair shake.

That is why, for example, we cannot agree with Black Lives Matters’ insistence that criminal charges be brought against two officers involved in the 2016 fatal shooting of a young black man, Joshua Beal, during a melee on 111th Street.

Part of pushing for police reform, and drawing the support of an entire city, is knowing which battles to pick. As we wrote last month, after the officers in the Beal shooting were cleared, Beal had been shot in a swirl of chaos. But at some point, Beal had pulled and pointed a gun.

The Civilian Office of Police Accountability concluded that any “reasonable officer” might have made the same decision to pull the trigger. Given what we know, we can’t disagree.

Chicago is now in midst of yet another violent summer. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Tuesday, after yet another bloody weekend, that “it feels like we’re losing the streets.”

It will take an awful lot — in job training, mental health services, better schools and on and on — to quell the violence, much of it gang-related.

But central to it all is more effective police work, which requires greater community support.

Building bridges has never been more important.

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