By Glen Ford on April 19, 2016
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks he can squelch Black rage against the police by appointing a Black cop as superintendent. But the new top cop climbed the ranks of a force that has “no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.” He’s part of the problem, not the solution. Young activists demand nothing less than community control of the police.
“Democracy demands that “the people must be empowered to hold the police accountable for their crimes and misconduct.”
The absolute intransigence of the U.S. mass incarceration regime is most dramatically on display in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s own special investigative task force has concluded that the “police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.” The report backs up that conclusion with a now-familiar recitation of statistics that show, by the numbers, the raw nature of the police as an occupying army that perceives that its mission is to stop, humiliate, frame, physically abuse, torture and kill Black and brown people. Seventy-four percent of the 404 people shot by the Chicago police last year were Black. Seventy-two percent of those stopped on the street but who were not arrested, were Black. Three quarters of those singled out for tasering were Black. And, the bulk of the remainder were Latino.
The task force was Mayor Emanuel’s response to demonstrations in protest of a massive cover-up of the police killing of Laquan McDonald, whose death in a hail of 16 bullets was caught on video that was hidden from public view for more than a year. Since then, the killer cops have been gunning down Black folks like clockwork, including last week’s shooting of 16 year-old Pierre Loury after he ran away from a police stop. Witnesses say the cops high-fived each other over the dead boy’s body.
“The mayor thinks he can hide behind Eddie Johnson’s Black face – but those days are over.”
Mayor Emanuel was forced to fire his police superintendent in the wake of the Laquan McDonald cover-up. Last week he passed over three candidates recommended by a police oversight board, to pick Eddie Johnson, a Black 28-year veteran of the force, as the new superintendent. Emanuel made it clear that Eddie Johnson’s first job is to restore the “morale” of his fellow officers. “He’s well-respected within the department among the rank-and-file officers,” said Emanuel, as if the main task is to keep the cops happy – instead of confronting the fact that they “have no regard for the sanctity” of Black lives. The mayor thinks he can hide behind Eddie Johnson’s Black face – but those days are over. Johnson’s record of service to the Chicago Police Department is a badge of shame, not honor. He served as chief of patrol, commanding 8,000 of the very same officers that have compiled an unbroken record of lawlessness and contempt for civilian authority. Eddie Johnson would not have climbed so high in such a department if he were not, himself, a protector and champion of killer cops.
The young people that forced the issue of police terror to the forefront vow that they won’t settle for anything less than community control of police. They say democracy demands that “the people must be empowered to hold the police accountable for their crimes and misconduct,” the power to tell the police how they want their communities to be made safe and secure. As Frank Chapman, Field Organizer for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression wrote on the organization’s Facebook page, “Community control of the police is not a utopian dream, it is what we are fighting for now in this present reality.”
The present reality, in Chicago and throughout the United States, is that the police are an occupation army in the Black community. If there is to be peace, that army must be dismantled and disbanded.