Reality Check: Is Justice Blind When Charging Police Officers?
For the first time in 35 years, a Chicago police officer has been charged with first-degree murder.
It all surrounds the shooting of a teen. But the question that has still not been answered is, what takes so long for an officer to be charged?
This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.
We have seen the video—a Chicago police officer shooting and killing a 17 year old. That teen was shot 16 times within six seconds of being confronted by the officer.
And while 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was holding a small folding knife, he was not facing the officer, not confronting the officer.
Right now, Officer Jason Van Dyke has been released on $1.5 million bond. But what most media has failed to address is that it took the justice system in Chicago more than one year to bring that murder charge.
Sounds strangely similar to the case of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, who one year ago this week was shot to death by a police officer in Cleveland.
The 12 year old had a toy gun and the officer who responded opened fire, firing two shots before the police cruiser came to a stop and then two more shots within two seconds of getting out of the vehicle.
But no decision on whether the officers involved in Rice’s death have been made. In fact, a grand jury is just now beginning to look like at the case and will reportedly take up to five months to make a decision.
What about the case of Anthony Hill here in Atlanta?
Hill, an Air Force veteran was shot to death when he was found naked in a street. His family says he suffered an episode of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The officer in this case has not been charged, nor has he been cleared. That shooting of Anthony Hill was in March of this year, and the further the case has made it is to a civil grand jury that last month encouraged Dekalb County to continue to investigate.
So the real question is, why does it take so long to bring charges in these cases?
After all, when it comes to the general public, charges before a grand jury when a suspect is known can take days or weeks to be filed.
So let’s talk about numbers.
This year, 2015, there have been 896 people shot dead by police officers. The latest was just this week here in Atlanta.
Let’s be clear—the vast majority of these, 660 of the fatal shootings, followed a wide range of violent crimes, including shootouts, stabbings, hostage situations, carjacking, and assaults.
Let’s also be clear about this—the numbers of those killed by race.
Caucasian/White – 432 Black – 228 Hispanic – 146 Other – 31 Unknown – 58
Among those numbers, there were 30 unarmed black men who were killed by officers.
Now, this year, in 2015, there are 12 police officers who have been charged in shootings. Granted, six of those in the Baltimore case of Freddie Gray.
But even so, that is more than double the number of officers charged every year for the past decade.
What you need to know is that police officers have a very difficult and dangerous job. But there is without question something wrong with a system that allows someone to spend over one year waiting to find out if they will be charged for killing an unarmed person, especially when that killing is caught on tape.
This is one of the biggest problems with the divide between police and protestors—prosecutors who have to work with police who in many cases treat those officers differently than they do you and me.
That’s not about picking sides. That’s a question of whether justice is truly blind.