Chicago cops try to build bridges with coat drive

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At a coat and food collection organized by the police Sunday, Englewood District Police Cmdr. Larry Watson rattled off a list of other good deeds cops partake in as part of a public relations effort that will surely become more complicated this week when a controversial video of a fatal police shooting is set to be released by order of a Cook County judge.

“There’s the prom dress giveaway for the young ladies who didn’t have dresses for prom, and the young men who didn’t have suits,” Watson explained in the lobby of the General Jones Armory, 5200 S. Cottage Grove, as he greeted donors bearing canned goods and coats.

“We had the father-daughter dance at the South Shore Cultural Center for the young ladies who didn’t have a lot of contact with their dads, where we’d have an officer stand in and act as a surrogate father at the dance,” he said.

“We’re trying to build as many bridges as we can,” Watson said.

A Cook County Judge ordered the dashcam video showing the 2014 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald to be released by Wednesday at the latest. McDonald, who was carrying a folding knife, was shot 16 times by one officer while his fellow officers, who awaited a backup unit with a taser, showed restraint. An attorney for McDonald’s family who has seen the video said McDonald walking away from police when he was shot. An attorney for the officer has said he did nothing wrong and feared for his life.

LeAndrew Collins, a member of the Jesse White Tumblers, which performed at the event, said activities like the food drive may seem little, but go a long way.

“There’s a lot of cops out here. Most that’s good, some that’s not, but you can’t pinpoint the one that is and the one that is not off a conversation,” said Collins, 24. “You’ve got to get to know that person, like, literally.”

“If they come out and show the youth that they’re here for their support, though [they’ll] always get it back from the youth,” he said.

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