The mother of Sandra Bland, the Naperville woman who was found dead in a Texas jail cell last year after she was arrested during a traffic stop, joined other grieving families at a Chicago Police Board meeting Thursday night to ask board members to understand their suffering — and do something about it.
“You need to understand the pain,” Geneva Reed-Veal said during the public comments part of the meeting. “It’s real and it’s deep and it goes farther than what anybody can explain to you because you go through so many things in your mind as you miss your relative.”
Reed-Veal used her two minutes of microphone time to call for a change in the way information is slowly released to family members and the public when police officers are involved in a death.
“If you talk about keeping the peace in the community, keeping the peace in the neighborhood, you have to understand that there can be no peace if we can’t even get the pieces of information that we need to find out what happened to our families,” she said.
“We are dealing with this life-long pain that you can’t take a picture of,” she said.
Before opening the floor to public comments, Chicago Police Board President Lori E. Lightfoot said the board had heard the “constructive criticism” offered by concerned citizens thus far.
She told the small crowd of about 50 people at Chicago Public Safety Headquarters, 3510 S. Michigan Ave., that the critiques would be in board members’ minds as they comb through the credentials of 39 people who applied for the position of Chicago Police superintendent.
Lightfoot said it would be a “couple weeks” before any applicants are called in for interviews — after which board members will whittle the list down to as many as three candidates who they will recommend to Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
LaToya Jones, whose mother, Bettie Jones, was killed accidentally by a police bullet late last year, vented to board members.
“That’s all we had was our mom, she was our everything,” said Jones, 35. “Now she’s gone. We lost our mom to gun violence. She didn’t die of a natural cause, she died at the hand of a trigger-happy cop.”
Martinez Sutton, whose sister, Rekia Boyd, 22, was killed by off-duty Police Officer Dante Servin, told the police board that he hated welcoming others into the club of people who have had relatives killed by police officers.
“It’s the most f—– up club I’ve ever been in,” he said.
The police board is considering firing Servin, but it did not address the matter Thursday night. A judge acquitted Servin on involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge charges, insinuating that prosecutors should have charged the officer with first-degree murder.
Tense moments erupted when Sutton refused to leave the microphone after his allotted speaking time expired. Supporters surrounded him as he told a nearby police officer: “Don’t touch me.”
After about two minutes of yelling and finger-pointing directed at police board members, things calmed down and the crowd thinned out.