I refer to the incontrovertible fact that police officers lie under oath with impunity — and with full knowledge and tacit support of Alvarez, her predecessors, and myriad present and former assistant state’s attorneys in contravention of their sworn duty to uphold the law.
Here are some lessons we are learning the hard way:
There are too many instances of police shootings. The Washington Post has been keeping count: Almost 1,000 this year, and counting. Forty-one involved unarmed black men. Policemen too often have to make split-second decisions when they come upon situations, and determine if there are people, including themselves, at risk. Making that decision can be horrendously difficult; and a wrong decision can be lethal, either to themselves, innocent third parties, or to the suspects they encounter.
If you missed it, we recommended in #injusticereads a powerful article detailing the difficulty of rape prosecutions, centered around the wrongful conviction of a young woman who was criminally convicted based on allegations she had falsely claimed rape. The work was the product of Ken Armstrong and T. Christian Miller, two excellent reporters at, respectively, The Marshall Project and ProPublica. Now, a postscript: the editors of those sites explain how the project came to be, and it says a lot about the new world of journalism. In the old days, news organization were driven by competition, by being first, by getting “the scoop.” In the new days, as news organizations have shrunk their budgets and appetites for deep investigative projects, an increasing number of non-profits (including, of course, Injustice Watch) are sprouting up to fill the landscape.
The mistrust of the Criminal Division stems from a dysfunctional judicial-selection system under which Cook County voters put judges on the bench with virtually no information predictive of their ability or inclination to exercise judicial power responsibly.
What distinguished the McDonald case, which has now triggered the federal investigation, is that the officer’s actions appear so outrageous, the city’s coverup so blatant and the official line so thoroughly discredited by the release of a video , which Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s (D) administration tried so hard to keep under wraps.
While Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s alleged mishandling of the Laquan McDonald case has drawn fury from myriad critics in recent days, her equally troubling failure to prosecute men linked by DNA to two murders has received scant public attention.
A thorough investigation of the shooting of Laquan McDonald, of course, is in order, as are investigations into every other recent and ensuing use of deadly force by Chicago police. Chicagoans deserve, and have every right to demand, honest answers — but the answers by themselves won’t change the status quo.
The belated charging Tuesday of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke with the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald more than 13 months ago ought to be viewed as an indictment of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for dereliction of duty.