Apr 25, 2016
The Chicago Police Accountability Task Force appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel admitted what everyone knew: the Chicago police are racist. This task force “heard over and over again from a range of voices, particularly from African Americans, that some CPD officers are racist, have no respect for the lives and experiences of people of color and approach every encounter with people of color as if the person, regardless of age, gender or circumstance, is a criminal. Some people do not feel safe in any encounter with the police. Some do not feel like they have the ability to walk in their neighborhoods or drive in their cars without being aggressively confronted by the police.”
The task force report shows in numbers what that racism means. Black people make up a bit less than a third of the population of Chicago. Yet seventy-four percent of the people the Chicago cops shoot are black. Seventy-six percent of those they Taser are black. The cops searched the cars of black drivers four times as often as white drivers – even though white drivers who were stopped had contraband twice as often as did black drivers. Seventy-two percent of the people they stopped on the street in the summer of 2014 were black. Almost 70% of all young black men in the city reported being stopped by the police in 2015, according to one survey. And “a significant number of those stops also involved actual or threatened physical abuse.”
And the police get away with it – up to and including murder. In the last five years, 40 percent of all complaints about police abuse were not even investigated. Between 2007 and 2015, more than 1,500 Chicago cops got more than ten complaints against them – yet they stayed on the streets. The report concludes that “These statistics give real credibility to the widespread perception that there is a deeply entrenched code of silence supported not just by individual officers, but by the very institution itself.”
All this is not new. The police have had a license to murder and harass black people for a very long time in Chicago. The task force report said as much: “Racism and maltreatment at the hands of the police have been consistent complaints . . . for decades.”
So why are Emanuel and his cronies making a big deal about it now? As they admit themselves: “The Police Accountability Task Force arose amidst a significant and historic public outcry. The outcry brought people into the streets....” First in Ferguson, then in New York, and most threateningly – as far as the ruling class is concerned – in Baltimore after the police murder of Freddie Gray, where the victims of racist police violence poured into the streets, pushing the cops back for a few days at least.
The memory of what people in Baltimore did lives in the memory of every big city mayor, including Emanuel. They know the streets of their cities are hot. And Chicago is especially hot since people saw the video of the cold-blooded murder of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago cop, shot sixteen times when he was a threat to no one. And the summer hasn’t yet begun.
The mayor’s task force concluded: “Ultimately, the responsibility for setting the correct course lies with the CPD leadership itself.” No, the responsibility for creating and reinforcing the racist functioning of the police lies with the CPD leadership – and the city government all the way up to Emanuel and the mayors before him. But expecting them to “reform” what they have created is like asking a hired assassin to protect his victim. Because they ARE the hired assassins for a ruling class that has always benefitted by restricting the black laboring population to an inferior position, using whatever violence is necessary to maintain it.
There is only one way the black population has driven this racist system back, the only way they made racist cops afraid. And that was when, for example, in the 1960s, they imposed through massive rebellions, respect for their rights on a system and its hired assassins who do not respect their rights. The system didn’t reform itself – and it never will.