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Why police clashes go on and on

One of my early assignments at the Better Government Association was to cover the first Blagojevich trial in 2010 for the BGA website, and to provide analysis on TV, radio and in print. 

I followed the daily developments — the outrageously entertaining histrionics of the defendant and his entourage, and the damning X-rated audio tapes — but I also framed the trial as a “teaching moment” that gave watchdogs like the BGA an opportunity to assess the former governor’s misconduct in the context of Illinois’ sad history of corruption, and desperate need of reform. 

OPINION

What laws could be strengthened or enacted to limit conflicts of interest, contract abuse, official misconduct and pay-to-play transactions; and to increase transparency and accountability?

In other words: A blueprint for an ethical post-Blago Illinois.

Well, here we are, a few years and a long prison sentence later and, yes, state lawmakers have taken a few reform steps, but there’s a long way to go. 

The concept of a “teaching moment” comes to mind again, writ large, in the wake of angry demonstrations and intense national soul-searching following the deaths of unarmed African-Americans at the hands of white police officers in Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; and Phoenix, Arizona, without any of the cops facing criminal charges.

Protests are continuing, along with an examination of police protocols in threatening situations: When should cops use batons, stun guns and other non-lethal weapons to control suspects and protect themselves, and when is a potential kill shot appropriate?

Should there be video recorders in all police cars, and body cameras on every officer, to document confrontations?

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