Chicago police installed a new union president on Wednesday, just in time for him to deal with a new police shooting video.
The video involves the Feb. 10 fatal shooting of Michele Robey, a 55-year-old, severely mentally ill woman as she allegedly threatened officers with a knife.
It’s another one of these videos where it’s hard to see what is happening, but shows just enough that people will be tempted to make their own judgments, some of which will be unfavorable toward the police.
This is a very difficult time to be a police officer, with surveillance cameras and cellphones everywhere recording actions for which police once were allowed to write their own definitive account.
The public second-guessing that results from that reality, combined with Chicago’s spike in violent crime and the city’s bleak fiscal outlook, also make it a very difficult time to run the police union.
Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo Sr. learned that the hard way. So now will his replacement, Kevin Graham, elected by a wide margin on a promise to represent his members more aggressively.
Angelo speculated his loss stemmed from low morale in the Police Department, which he blamed on “media and politicians [who] have demonized this job over the last couple years,” eroding the public’s trust in the process.
I would argue the minority communities that most commonly interact with police lost their faith in the department light years ahead of the news media, which didn’t reevaluate until it saw enough videos.
But I don’t doubt that’s part of the reason police took out their frustrations on Angelo.
Now it’s Graham’s turn to make their case, with a tough one right off the bat involving the shooting of Robey at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Western.
We know from other information made public by the Independent Police Review Authority that police had been called to the scene abut 5:45 p.m. by an employee of a nearby CVS store who reported a woman was “screaming and causing a scene” and had thrown a can of nuts.
More important, the employee reported: “She has a knife.”
Eight minutes later, a motorist called to report a woman sitting at a bus stop and screaming and holding what “could be a butter knife.”
The video shows two police officers approaching a woman seated at a bus stop. It’s dark outside with just enough street lighting for a camera mounted across the street to catch the action. There’s lots of traffic.
Robey stands up and tries to get away from the officers by walking across the street, while extending her arm as if to keep the two officers at bay as they follow her. I can’t really see a weapon in her hand, but that fits her actions.
Then more quickly, we see the police backpedaling from where they came, weapons drawn, with Robey now seeming to be the pursuer.
In the middle of the street, someone fires their weapon and Robey falls face-first into a puddle. One officer appears to kick something away from her hand.
The whole business takes less than a minute from first contact. Somewhere during that time, police say they used a Taser on Robey but that it didn’t stop her. That’s not obvious on the video, but it does seem to fit.
I’m not saying the police were wrong. It was dark on the street, even under the streetlights. I don’t really know what kind of knife the woman had, and I’m sure she could have hurt someone, even with a butter knife.
But I find it interesting that a security camera inside the CVS shows two employees physically attempting to block the woman from leaving the store, putting their bodies on the line in the process.
The police, facing exactly the same threat, pulled their weapons and shot the woman dead. That gives me pause.
Kevin Graham. You’re up.Tweets by @MarkBrownCST