Mimesis Law
7 July 2020

Chicago’s Concealment of Cedrick Chatman’s Killing Ends

Jan. 15, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Desperately seeking to keep his tenuous grasp on his job following the revelation of the Laquan McDonald video, a murder concealed, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel danced his ass off:

If any good comes from this tragedy, it should be a historic set of reforms that prevents abuses, promotes transparency and rebuilds the confidence of all Chicagoans that they will be treated fairly. That is the marker I am setting for myself, the next police superintendent and the reform commission I’ve appointed.

Which, translated from politi-spin, means that about a month later, we would be pretty much in the same place, except the name of the dead black youth would be Cedrick Chatman.

Attorneys for the city of Chicago have released 2013 surveillance video showing a white police officer fatally shooting a 17-year-old black carjacking suspect.

A federal judge on Thursday lifted a protective order that had barred the release after the city dropped its objections.

The officer shot Cedrick Chatman during a foot chase. The officer says he fired after seeing Chatman turn toward officers with a dark object in his hand that he thought was a gun. Investigators later determined it was an iPhone box.

And the video has now been released.

Notably, the city “dropped its objections” after a federal judge ripped the city a new one for persisting in its objection to having the public see how another young black man was mowed down in the street.

A federal judge has sharply criticized the city of Chicago for fighting the release of a police shooting video for weeks only to suddenly reverse course and call for its release.

U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman told city lawyers during a Thursday hearing he was “very disturbed” by how they dealt with video showing a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager, Cedrick Chatman, in 2013.

And, of course, there was that Laquan McDonald murder, where the city fought to conceal the video of a murder because, well, it made Chicago, Emanuel, prosecutor Anita Alvarez and, need I mention, the police, look like murderous thugs and protectors of murderous thugs. From which nothing was learned.

The Chapman killing has been controversial from the start.

Chapman, age 17, was carrying a black i-Phone box when he was shot and the officer later claimed he thought it was a gun. CNN News also interviewed Lorenzo Davis, a Chicago Police Department supervisor, who initially found the shooting unjustified. The Independent Police Review Authority ( I.P.R.A.) asked him to change his findings to justified. Davis refused to do so and was subsequently fired by the police department. Following this, their report cited that Mr. Davis’s findings were biased. According to CNN, there is “A significant discrepancy” between Davis’ findings “and what the facts actually show.”

That Lorenzo Davis found the shooting unjustified wasn’t just huge, because that doesn’t happen too often, but cost him his job. He was fired for his refusal to change his report to find the shooting justified, as he was directed to do.

But without a video that could be viewed by the public, the “he said/cops said” fight over whether this was a righteous shoot or a needless murder of yet another black youth remained on a theoretical level. With video, everything changes.

It’s not that the Chatman (as most media, including the New York Times and CNN report, though others have given his surname as Chapman) video provides the clearest view of what happens. Like so many videos, it leaves plenty of room to copsplain the killing, or at least the scary cop view of the killer iPhone box that they thought would take them away from the bosom of their family if they didn’t shoot the kid dead.

But the fact that Chicago refuses to release video of black kids being gunned down by cops, to reveal to the public why they’re lying in puddles of their own blood despite being unarmed, why the police keep lying about the shootings to relieve themselves of the culpability for murdering people, is a problem. A big, huge, horrible problem.

“With respect to the release of videos of police incidents, the City of Chicago is working to find the right balance between the public’s interest in disclosure and the importance of protecting the integrity of investigations and the judicial process,” Stephen R. Patton, the head of Chicago’s Law Department, said Wednesday as the city announced it would no longer fight to prevent the release. “In this case, the city sought a protective order consistent with its decades-long policy. We recognize the policy needs to be updated, and while we await guidance from the Task Force on Police Accountability, we are working to be as transparent as possible.”

The “right balance” seems to be fairly obvious to discern. When the video shows a cop needlessly killing a kid in the street, conceal it. When the video shows a cop making a righteous shoot, reveal it so that everyone can praise the hero. How hard is that to figure out?

But there is another “right balance” at stake here beyond the policy of concealing videos of police committing murder. Stop killing unarmed black kids. If prosecutors and politicians in Chicago don’t want to do the hard work of coming up with insipid excuses for concealing the videos of cops needlessly killing black kids in the street, stop the killing. The video just reveals the wrong. The killing is the wrong itself, and it has got to stop.

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  • Peter Orlowicz
    19 January 2016 at 12:10 pm - Reply

    I know you’re quoting the Guardian Liberty Voice article, but Lorenzo Davis was a supervisory investigator for IPRA at the time he made the finding that the shooting was unjustified, not working for CPD. When he refused to change his finding, IPRA fired him. Prior to being with IPRA, he was a Chicago Police commander and retired from CPD in 2004. Not quite the same thing as being fired by CPD, although many are questioning whether there’s any difference between CPD and IPRA at this point.

    Local source: http://www.wbez.org/news/city-fires-investigator-who-found-cops-fault-shootings-112423

    • shg
      19 January 2016 at 1:28 pm - Reply

      Well, that changes . . . something.