UPDATED: 12:15 a.m. ET, Dec. 4, 2020 —
The Chicago Police Department‘s deep-seated history of corruption and scandal has been well-documented over the decades and has managed to continue to thrive up to this day.
In one of the most recent examples, actor Jussie Smollett and his allegations of being the victim of a hate crime were famously fudged by the Chicago Police Department, resulting in his own felony indictment. But in more serious cases, lives have been lost — including Fred Hampton and Laquan McDonald — to preventable police violence that was arguably inspired by racism.
All of which gets us to this brief but necessary reminder of why we should always question the notoriously corrupt Chicago Police Department.
Hampton is one of the most recognizable cases of deplorable behavior from the Chicago police. On Dec. 4, 1969, Hampton — a 21-year-old chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP) — and Mark Clark — a 22-year-old Peoria Panther leader — were murdered by Chicago police officers working with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. At the time of the attack, Hampton and Clark were neither inciting violence nor having a standoff with the police. Instead, they were both asleep inside their Chicago home.
Driven by then-Cook County State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan, the deadly raid of the local BPP chapter — which left four other BPP members severely injured — was one of multiple attempts to attack the BPP amid Cointelpro’s mission to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize the activities of black nationalist hate type organizations and groupings, their leadership, spokesmen, membership and supporters,” as written in an FBI document.
“Despite the evidence provided by ballistics experts showing that police had fired 99 percent of the bullets and had falsified the report on the incident, the first federal grand jury did not indict anyone involved in the raid,” History.com wrote. “Furthermore, even though a subsequent grand jury did indict all the police officers involved, the charges were dismissed.”
Now, years later, there is the horrific story of Laquan McDonald. On Oct. 20, 2014, video of the 17-year-old’s killing appeared to show then-Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke firing at him 16 times within 14 seconds. The video was released one year after McDonald’s death and showed the teen walking away from instead of confronting officers, the latter of which Van Dyke lied about. McDonald continued to be shot at even after he fell to the ground from the initial bullets.
Two police officers and one detective were acquitted of trying to cover up the shooting for Van Dyke, even though that was precisely what they did. The three men all said Van Dyke, who was found guilty in October, was justified in shooting the teenager 16 times within 14 seconds. Van Dyke’s partner the night of the shooting, even said: “McDonald was walking toward Van Dyke and with his arms raised when he was shot.” The video would later contradict that account, showing Walsh lied. Still, he and his co-defendants were acquitted.
More than four years after killing McDonald, Van Dyke was given the light sentence of 81 months in prison.