Mitchell: City moves to settle lawsuit over police-involved shooting

SHARE Mitchell: City moves to settle lawsuit over police-involved shooting

Just settling lawsuits over police-involved shootings won’t build trust with the African-American community, Mary Mitchell writes. Only honesty and transparency can do that. | File Photo

The City Council’s Committee on Finance will be asked Monday to authorize a $5 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by the estate of Laquan McDonald.

Meanwhile, groups advocating for police accountability continue to be denied access to a videotape that may show McDonald’s death was the result of an unjustified police shooting.

A Chicago Police officer shot and killed McDonald last October at 41st and Pulaski.

At the time of his death, the teenager was a ward of the state. An autopsy found McDonald’s body had 16 bullet holes.

Police had alleged that McDonald was armed with a knife and threatened officers.

But the Civil Rights and Accountability Clinic of the University of Chicago and Invisible Institute, an organization dedicated to investigating police misconduct, raised questions about the police account.

In December, the clinic requested the city release the police dash-cam video of the incident.

“[There’s been] no progress whatsoever,” Futterman said when I asked if the city had relented in light of the recent events in North Charleston, S.C.

Last week, Michael Slager, a white North Charleston police officer, was charged with murder after a video surfaced showing him firing multiple rounds at an unarmed black man who was trying to flee.

Walter Scott, 50, was fatally shot in the back. The police officer was charged with murder and is behind bars.

Futterman noted that without the video, Slager might still be on the street.

“[But] the city [of Chicago] won’t release the video because it’s afraid of exposing the truth. It’s too ugly. The video may reveal a police officer unloading his clip into a boy laying on the ground, writhing in pain,” Futterman said.

“The city would prefer to keep it under wraps. However, the only way to rebuild trust is to stop denying the reality of the experiences of so many black folks in this city. Even if the reality is ugly, we can’t build trust without first being honest with one another.”

The Independent Police Review Authority is still investigating the shooting.

“[W]e take two very important steps for each incident: we conduct an independent, civilian-led investigation, and we refer each incident to prosecutors to determine if criminal charges may be appropriate. The shooting that led to Laquan McDonald’s death continues to be investigated by prosecutors, and as a result we cannot comment any further,” Scott Ando, chief administrator for the Independent Police Review Authority, said in an email statement on Friday.

I can’t say what North Charleston’s mayor would have done had the videotape of the deadly police encounter not surfaced.

But in the wake of the tragedy, the town’s mayor ordered body cameras for every officer on the force. The footage from the dashboard-mounted camera in Slager’s police cruiser also was released to the public.

As horrible as this tragedy is, I give these officials a lot of credit for addressing this blatant case of police brutality as quickly as they have.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for authorities here.

As is often the case, the city will settle this case and one family will walk away feeling like they received justice.

But there’s no excuse for the city to continue to keep the McDonald video secret.

If a police officer shot this teenager unjustifiably, and a settlement would suggest that was the case, the public has the right to know what happened.

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