Saturday, April 26, 2014

CHICAGO COPS: "Many, many, many, many times" they lied

The Chicago Tribune editorial page today featured the words of Cook County Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn in a case of police lying on the witness stand:

"Obviously, this is very outrageous conduct. All officers lied on the stand today. ... Many, many, many, many times they all lied."

(See "Keeping Cops Honest," Chicago Tribune editorial, Saturday, April 26, 2014)

"So, officer, is it your testimony . . . ."
Notably, the case involved police dash cam evidence that caught the actual police behavior for all to see.  (Reminiscent of another case that saw the light of day in Chicago after the Chicago Tribune was motivated by dash cam evidence to prominently feature the story: the murder of Flint Farmer.)

In an unpublished letter to the Tribune, local advocates for justice for victims of police crimes wrote:

To the Editor:

The Tribune coverage of the lying by police officers testifying during a hearing in a Skokie courtroom (Chicago Tribune, "Judge: 5 cops lied on stand," April 15, 2014) comes as little surprise to many people throughout Chicago, or, for that matter, across the country. As your reporter discovered, when he asked four people if it is common for the police to lie, he was told in four different ways that it comes as no surprise. (The exception was the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) representative.) What is new, however, is that police are being caught in the act; credit new technology like dash cams, whose footage can be subpoenaed by alert defense counsel. But the biggest news of all will come when police officers are actually indicted for perjury and other criminal acts -- that's a piece of news that we see all too seldom in Chicago, in Cook County, or, for that matter, elsewhere in the country.

Frank Chapman
Ted Pearson
Co-Chairs, National Forum on Police Crimes
(May 16-17, 2014, Chicago)

Today's Tribune editorial echoed the point about dash cams:

"That's why video cameras mounted on squad car dashboards or carried in officers' lapels are so valuable and deserve wider use. ... The only police hurt by video cameras are the ones who have something to hide. The good ones, when wrongly accused of misconduct, are vindicated by this type of evidence. And the ones on the fence get a nudge from knowing that someone will be watching."

Also notable about this case was that it turned on a police stop predicated on non-compliance with traffic law (in this case failure to signal a turn).  This is a police tactic that is being called out more and more by civil liberties advocates -- notably by David Shipler (Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty in Modern America) and Michelle Alexander (The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness). This Chicago case lays bare what has become a textbook element of the government's principal modus operandi in eroding all of our liberties and carrying out a program of mass incarceration.

A national movement to return power over the police to the community and prosecute police crimes is under way.  As the Tribune said today, "No one entrusted to serve as a police officer should ignore the law on permissible stops or searches, and any cop who does so and lies about it under oath should never again wear a badge." People who want to get involved in this movement for change first-hand are encouraged to register today for the National Forum on Police Crimes, taking place in Chicago May 16-17.

Related posts

The State's Attorney for the Chicago area finally got around to bringing a charge against a police officer who shot and killed a citizen. Why, I wondered, didn't Anita Alvarez charge him with murder? Then I remembered my Chicago vocabulary lesson.
(See Chicago Vocabulary Lesson: "Overcharging" and "Undercharging" )

In the city where I live, "normal" or "right" or "acceptable" has been given a brutal construction by the power structure:

Police encounter black man on street
Police shoot black man
Black man dies
(Business as usual in Chicago.)

 (See We need to get the police off the streets of Chicago. QED.)

All the cameras and microphones and reporters were out in force that day -- and their appearance suggested to me that it does make a difference to take a stand for justice. And maybe the fact that some of us thought this was important enough to come out, hold signs, chant, and march, helped back up that message.

(See Chicago Justice: Connecting the Dots )

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