Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.

In Chicago, police shootings rarely protested

ShootingsGang ActivityLaw EnforcementLaws and LegislationGarry McCarthyMichael Brown
Chicago police have shot 34 people so far this year.
Activist: 'Too many people are being gunned down. They're black and brown youth and their lives are valuable.'

If anything was unusual about the shootings of two people by Chicago police last weekend, it was that one of the incidents sparked a protest.

A sudden rainstorm scattered the 80 or so people who gathered Monday on the West Side to protest the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Roshad McIntosh in the Lawndale neighborhood a day earlier. The organized demonstration was rare in a city where police shootings take place with regularity and often prompt hard questions about whether they were justified.

The fatal shooting two weeks ago of an unarmed young man named Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., put a renewed spotlight on police shootings, and some people want to bring that attention to Chicago.

Monday's protest over the shooting of McIntosh brought out neighborhood residents as well as a handful of activists, among them a woman who has done work with the Occupy movement, and a local law student who had been detained in Ferguson.

Though Chicago often leads the country in police shootings, residents may understand little about how those shootings are investigated. The shootings occur in a city stung repeatedly by the slayings of young people in gang-related neighborhood violence. The anguish, grief and frustration that attend the deaths of these young people seem to be overwhelming residents in some neighborhoods, a local civil rights attorney said recently.

"Crime, as it relates to the black community, it seems as if it's (at) an alarming level. Some of the police-involved shootings get lost in that discussion," said attorney Melvin Brooks, who has represented plaintiffs suing the police over alleged misconduct. "I just think it's hard to necessarily focus on police-involved shootings."

Chicago police shot 36 people last year, 26 of them African-American males, and have shot 34 people so far this year. Officials in Chicago rarely provide details of police-involved shootings beyond the preliminary narratives, though often they will say that a victim was armed.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on Monday said in the cases of McIntosh and a man shot by police Sunday in the East Chatham neighborhood — identified by the Cook County medical examiner's office as Desean Pittman, 20 — the victims were armed and pointed their guns at officers.

He said the number of times officers have discharged their weapons has been in decline since 2011, which he attributed to officers "exercising firearms control." And he again blamed such violent incidents on the number of guns on the streets, which puts officers' lives in peril.

"If those guns are not on the street, we don't get into those confrontations. We don't have these incidents," McCarthy said during a news conference about a narcotics investigation. "If these guys are throwing rocks at each other instead of bullets, we're in a different place."

"Guns, guns, guns. That's the issue," he added later.

Inquiries into the two weekend shootings can be expected to follow a familiar script. Already, the spokesman for the police union — a man who formerly was a spokesman for the Police Department — has said that the shootings were justified, no matter that the investigations have only just begun.

The department and the Independent Police Review Authority, which investigates all police shootings as well as allegations of police brutality, will conduct probes that could result in discipline against the officers.

That outcome is unlikely if the past is any guide, however. Of 176 police-involved shootings investigated by the review authority since November 2007 and posted on its website, officers were found to have violated department policies in just three cases, according to a Tribune review.

Officers are rarely, if ever, disciplined as a result of shootings, although in some cases the city later pays substantial sums to settle wrongful-death lawsuits. Those lawsuits often provide the only information on the shootings that becomes public.

The review authority and the department release scant information during the course of an investigation. The department and the authority do not release the names of officers involved in shootings, and the investigations are conducted in secret.

The Police Department has been widely criticized for its responses, quickly making determinations that officer-involved shootings were justified.

Leaders of Monday's protest on the West Side said the city should pay more attention to police shootings.

"It has always been time to demonstrate about this," said Brit Schulte, an activist who has been involved with the Occupy movement and helped organize Monday's protest. "Too many people are being gunned down. They're black and brown youth and their lives are valuable."

Two women who live in the neighborhood were at the edge of Monday's demonstration on Polk Street, taking shelter from the driving rain under a tree. They said police shootings happen with troubling frequency on the West Side.

Donna Blair, 61, said she welcomed the arrival of protesters from other parts of the city.

"A lot of these white people out here I've never seen before," she said. "I think it's great."

jgorner@tribune.com

dheinzmann@tribune.com

smmills@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
ShootingsGang ActivityLaw EnforcementLaws and LegislationGarry McCarthyMichael Brown
Comments
Loading