Editorials

The Weak Justice Dept. And Its Failures To Give Justice

By Final Call News | Last updated: Jan 18, 2017 - 11:43:54 AM

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As the Obama administration comes to a close, the Justice Dept. has issued its report on the Chicago Police Dept., and its pattern and practices, and constitutional violations of the rights of Blacks and Latinos. The findings are disgusting and disturbing but unsurprising.

But more disturbing is the Justice Dept.’s continued failure to do anything to hold police officers accountable and bring any measure of justice to those unjustly slain at the hands of so-called peace officers.

This is the report we have been waiting for, alongside platitudes from the mayor? Then there was the mayor’s weak talk about there being no place for racism and racist language inside the police department, and such attitudes being incompatible with the values of the city of Chicago. Judging from the number of cover-ups, pointing back to the death of Laquan McDonald in 2014, the swift payment of damages to his family and hiding the video until after a 2015 mayoral election, Chicago values don’t seem to count for much. It seems as though the only values that truly matter are the value of power, influence and money in the hands of those who should be true public servants. Black and Latino lives clearly aren’t valued.

The release of the videotape of the McDonald shooting prompted protests, a criminal investigation into officer Jason Van Dyke—who was charged with six counts of first-degree murder—and a federal probe by the U.S. attorney’s office into the Chicago Police Department.

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The 164-page report issued Jan. 13 after a 13-month investigation admitted a long history of unconstitutional police conduct and a long history of excessive force and violence.

“The Justice Department announced today that it has found reasonable cause to believe that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) engages in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution,” the top law enforcement agency in America announced.

Chicago police has failed to “train officers in de-escalation and (failed) to conduct meaningful investigations of uses of force,” the feds observed.

The report was based on over 60 ride-alongs in every police district; input from over 1,000 community members and more than 90 community organizations; review of  thousands of pages of police documents and a randomized, representative samples of force reports and the investigative files for incidents between January 2011 and April 2016, including over 170 officer-involved shooting investigations and documents related to over 400 additional force incidents, said the Justice Dept.

“In addition, the department also identified serious concerns about the prevalence of racially discriminatory conduct by some CPD officers and the degree to which that conduct is tolerated and in some respects caused by deficiencies in CPD’s systems of training, supervision and accountability. The department’s findings further note that the impact of CPD’s pattern or practice of unreasonable force falls heaviest on predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods, such that restoring police-community trust will require remedies addressing both discriminatory conduct and the disproportionality of illegal and unconstitutional patterns of force on minority communities.”

And after all these findings in a “scathing” report, the outgoing attorney general almost gleefully announced an “agreement in principle” between the Justice Department and the city of Chicago to a consent decree to be reviewed by an independent monitor. So after investigations, interviews, ride alongs and findings of constitutional wrongdoing, the final word is the department and Chicago officials will pursue “reforms?”

No new charges will be filed against anyone, as if systems operate by themselves and not at the hands of people. No new investigations into reported and previously ignored incidents and no clear statement about holding police accountable—as in trials and jail time for wrongdoing under the color of law.

Ja’Mal Green, a young community activist and Chicago organizer, told The Final Call: “What we want is justice. We want charges and convictions. We want investigations into [Rahm Emanuel] and see what his role has been in the activity of the police and charge him. We want an investigation into the former state’s attorney, Anita Alvarez, and bar her from ever practicing law again. This is the type of justice we’re looking for.”

Isn’t the purpose of the Justice Dept. to pursue and deliver justice? And if local authorities fail to do justice isn’t the Justice Dept. supposed to come in and enforce federal statutes to deliver justice swiftly and emphatically?

No reform will bring back those who have been wrongly killed by police. “It is Justice Or Else!” declared the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan Jan. 16 in response to the Justice Dept. report. There is no way you can put us on your armed forces when our fight is at home in the street with you, he declared. “Fight your own wars!” the Minister said. If a weak and toothless Justice Dept. will not serve us, how can we justify serving as soldiers for a government that has proven itself to be our outright enemy? And while critics may call U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions unfit for office, did we get closer to actual justice under Eric Holder or Loretta Lynch under the Obama administration? No. We got speeches and platitudes and consent decrees with cities like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Oakland and others that still have major policing problems when it comes to Black people.

This weak Justice Dept., which has failed to prosecute officers guilty of wrongdoing, seems to delight in sleight of hand and false promises instead of actual results.  

But rest assured, as Min. Farrakhan said, Allah will keep a hot fire burning on these enemies—they will not get away with abuse and murder. This is the day of God’s Judgement and no one can thwart His will.

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