Chicago: Officers Who Covered Up Laquan McDonald Murder Must Be Convicted

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Van Dyke. Eyes of cold-blooded killer. Photo. Cbslocal.com

Earlier this month, Chicago killer-cop Jason Van Dyke was convicted of the cold-blooded backshooting murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald four years ago on October 20, 2014.

Van Dyke’s conviction is a victory for activists who’ve been fighting against prejudiced policing and the institutional racism that protects police bigotry—within the legal system and mainstream politics.

Unfortunately, for Van Dyke, the equally crooked institution of the American court was not able to find a way to exonerate him, as is usually done. The police video showing him committing murder was obviously too clear-cut for the jury that found him guilty to decide otherwise.

But what will be the outcome of the upcoming trial of three other Chicago police officers who’ve been charged with conspiracy in helping Van Dyke cover-up McDonald’s murder?

This October 26, the conspiracy trial of former Detective David March, ex-Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney will begin in Chicago. These officers have been charged with conspiracy for their transparent attempts to cover-up McDonald’s murder—and fix the evidence, and their stories, to support the lies of Van Dyke. In doing so, these officers were doing what officers all over America do when they kill innocent Black people: erect the “Blue Wall” to protect a criminal cop.

The outcome of this Chicago trial of these three officers, who assisted Van Dyke, will being important for the message it will send to the public. Police who cover for criminal cops are just as criminal—and are also rotten apples themselves. Didn’t these officers cover-up for Van Dyke, like most officers would be required to do, in police departments across America?

In this case, we know two witnesses, Jose and Xavier Torres, were chased away from the murder scene by Chicago police. Another witness, Alma Benitez, alleged in a lawsuit that police pressured her to change her story of what she saw. Reportedly, they even lied to her claiming they had a video to back-up their bogus claims.

Besides witness tampering, Chicago Police also apparently engaged in tampering with evidence.

In the aftermath of McDonald’s murder by Van Dyke, a manager, from a nearby Burger King facility, accused Chicago Police of erasing portions of a security video tape that was seized. The erased portions presumably correspond to the moments which captured the deadly encounter.

These attempts, by Chicago Police, to thwart justice ultimately failed because: officials were forced to handover the police video which showed this murder in all its gory detail.

Chicago officials tried to withhold this most vital piece of evidence that convicted Van Dyke. If it weren’t for the Freedom of Information Act petition freelance journalist Brandon Smith and community activist William Calloway filed, the public may’ve never seen that video—and Van Dyke would still be patrolling Black neighborhoods.

Van Dyke is going to prison because the video evidence was too compelling. Michael Slager, the killer of Walter Scott, is in prison for the same reason.

How many of these horrific videos have police hidden? How many more could still be in police vaults around the country? Van Dyke’s conviction illustrates that police videos and body-cams can be one tool used to reign in brutal police. Black America must press politicians to pass bills mandating full implementation of body-cams—and other measures to document police interactions with the public.

Police unions, and police apologists, like to complain that all police are painted with a broad brush. Do police have anyone to blame but themselves for this? When the majority of police either cover-up the criminality of cops, or remain silent, doesn’t the institution of the police lose integrity? How many times have police officers come forward to denounce the criminality and corruption of colleagues? Would the public not embrace police forces if this happened frequently?

We often hear a lot of hollow talk about there just being “a few bad apples” among police. Of course, this idea is nonsense—and avoids the real truth about police, especially as it relates to Blacks.

When it comes to Black America, the institution of the police has historically always been rotten to the core in terrorizing Black Americans. It has been so since the days when police functioned as the Slave Patrols, capturing runaways and murdering Slave revolt leaders.

For reference, consider what Dr. Victor E. Kappler—a professor at Eastern Kentucky University, and a former police officer—said in the article “A Brief History of Slavery and The Origins of American Policing,” where he states “The birth and development of the American police can be traced to a multitude of historical, legal and political-economic conditions. The institution of Slavery and the control of minorities, however, were two of the more formidable historic features of American society shaping early policing. Slave patrols and Night Watches, which later became modern police departments, were both designed to control the behaviors of minorities.”

Now, all police officers aren’t bad. But that isn’t because the institution of the police is such an honorable one. Some police are good and decent—in spite of the inherent institutional racism within corrupt cop culture.

I have a few friends who are police officers. One of them—who is White—once told me about being assigned to a neighborhood in East New York, right out of the academy, where he was told to just write tickets, mostly against African-Americans. He was stunned by the outright racist directives of his NYPD superiors. Naively, he had assumed the police mantra of “to serve and protect,” was meant for everyone—regardless of race. There is a sign allover the New York subway system --"If you see something, say something." This must also apply to police officers.

Sadly, police officers who are brave enough to expose cop corruption are treated as the enemy—and, in many instances are pressured off the force. Whistleblower, and former Baltimore police Officer Michael Wood in a Washington Post interview, in 2015, highlighted the difference in how Black neighborhoods are policed.

“I grew up in Bel Air [Maryland]. I didn’t have exposure to inner cities” said Wood. “And when you work in policing, you’re inundated early on with the 'us vs. them' mentality. It’s ingrained in you that this is a war, and if someone isn’t wearing a uniform, they’re the enemy…. But sitting in the van and watching people just living their lives, I started to see that these were just people. They weren’t that different from me. They had to pay rent. See their kids off to school. The main difference is that as a White kid growing up in my neighborhood, I was never going to get arrested for playing basketball in the street… As a teen, I was never going to get arrested for having a dime bag in my pocket.”

Another former Baltimore cop, Det. Joseph Crystal was considered a rising star—before he decided to speak out against Officer Anthony Williams, who Crystal says beat up drug suspect Antoine Green in 2011. Because of Det. Crystal’s courageous stance Officer Williams, and Sergeant Sgt. Marinos Gialamas who covered-up Williams’s actions, were convicted. Williams got 45 days for the assault; and Gialamas was given probation.

After these cop convictions, it all went downhill for Detective Crystal.

He was labelled a “rat” officer and was pressured into resigning, after being demoted and continually shunned and harassed by other officers. Crystal said, "I never imagined that doing the right thing as a cop could cost me so much."

The story of Detective Crystal is mirrored in the story of other brave officers who’ve tried to bring reform to the broken bigoted institution of the police. Like Detective Crystal, former NYPD Lieutenant Frank Serpico was purged from the police for exposing corruption in the NYPD. Is there any wonder then why police cover-up or remain silent about the brutalizers within their brotherhood of blue?

In Chicago, the inspector general’s report recommended firing 11 officers involved in covering up the murder of Laquan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke. Yet, only Detective David March, Officer Joseph Walsh and Officer Thomas Gaffney are prosecuted.

The institution of the police cannot continue to function, with any level of credibility, if it insists on excusing criminal behavior by cops. Those—whether cops, prosecutors or judges— who aid-and-abet the crimes of other officers cause the institution of the police to lose credibility. These Chicago Police officers, who helped Officer Van Dyke cover-up his cold-blooded murder of Laquan McDonald, are all just as guilty.

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