Police Accountability: Officer Van Dyke Convicted

By: Nicole Martin

Excessive use of force by law enforcement against African Americans is a widespread issue across the nation. Similar results of police officers not being held accountable, have occurred with recent shootings and killings of unarmed African American men and women. However, recently, Officer Jason Van Dyke “was found guilty of second-degree murder” for shooting and killing Laquan McDonald.”[1]Officer Van Dyke “was found guilty on 16 charges of aggravated battery with a firearm, one for each shot fired at McDonald.”[2]“The aggravated battery with a firearm convictions carry a sentence of six to 30 years with no probation.”[3]“He faces a maximum 20 years in prison for the second-degree murder conviction.”[4] Although an autopsy  revealed that McDonald had PCP in his system, prosecutors argued Van Dyke “couldn’t have known that McDonald had PCP in his system when he fired.” [5]“Jurors found Van Dyke not guilty of official misconduct” although Van Dyke was law enforcement officer “for nearly twenty years.”[6]

A data base by the Washington Post revealed that, “on-duty police officers fatally shoot just under 1,000 people each year.” [7]Between 2005 – 2014, 54 officers were charged with an on-duty police shooting, but “of those officers, 16 were convicted.” [8]A report by the Action Center of Race and Economy stated “the city borrowed $225 million for police-related settlements and judgments, bringing the total to $709 million between 2010 and 2017…”[9]Additional resources should be spent on preventative measures, including more rigorous police training and mandatory educational programs on overcoming subconscious racial bias to prevent this large amount of money being spent on settlements, that do not justify or compensate the loss of one’s life.

Officer Van Dyke, “will return to court October 31st, [2018]for a hearing…”[10] Although Van Dyke “was originally charged with first-degree murder, jurors were instructed… [to] consider second-degree murder.”[11]Van Dyke “was the first Chicago police officer to be charged with first-degree murder since 1980.” [12]Van Dyke’s statement, “Oh my God, we’re going to have to shoot this guy”, made prior to arriving at the scene, was “the turning point” in Van Dyke’s testimony for one of the jurors. [13]The juror panel included “eight women and four men — seven white, one black, three Hispanic and one Asian …” [14]

Police officers take an oath to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic…”[15]To some officers, like Van Dyke, African Americans are targeted and treated as the enemy, rather than a citizen of the United States, whose civil rights deserved to be protected. Officers may feel inclined to protect their fellow officers, even when blatant abuse is occurring, rather than standing up for what is just. “Former Detective David March, ex-Officer, Joseph Walsh, and Officer Thomas Gaffney were charged last year with covering up what really happened the night Van Dyke shot McDonald — including filing false reports to exaggerate the threat the teen posed.” [16]

The dashboard footage drastically differed from the comments made by the law enforcement regarding “reasonable fear for their lives”. [17]Initially police stated, “McDonald lunged towards officers with a knife, prompting Van Dyke to open fire six seconds after exiting his squad car.”[18]The dash cam video was released almost a year later after the shooting, which “showed McDonald walking away from officers, rather than charging at them.” [19]

The recent trends that have occurred regarding excessive use of force against African Americans can be discouraging when officers are consistently not held responsible for their actions. Van Dyke’s conviction reveals hope and progress that justice can be afforded to victims of police abuse. Law enforcement officers have a unique responsibility to serve and protect the public. This responsibility should be carried out in good faith and officers should not distinguish whose life is worth protecting based off of their race or ethnicity.

 

[1]

Mark Guarino & Mark Berman, “Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke convicted of second-degree murder for killing Laquan McDonald”  (October 5, 2018) Wash. Post.https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/10/05/chicago-police-officer-jason-van-dyke-convicted-of-second-degree-murder-for-killing-laquan-mcdonald/?utm_term=.c8de224adc1c

 

[2]Id.

 

[3]CNN Wire “Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke found guilty of second-degree murder in Laquan McDonald killing” Fox 13 Salt Lake City (Oct 6 2018)https://fox13now.com/2018/10/06/chicago-police-officer-jason-van-dyke-found-guilty-of-second-degree-murder-in-laquan-mcdonald-killing/

 

[4]Mark Guarino & Mark Berman, “Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke convicted of second-degree murder for killing Laquan McDonald”  (October 5, 2018) Wash. Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/10/05/chicago-police-officer-jason-van-dyke-convicted-of-second-degree-murder-for-killing-laquan-mcdonald/?utm_term=.c8de224adc1c

 

 

[5]Id.

 

[6]Id.

 

[7]Mark Guarino & Mark Berman, “Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke convicted of second-degree murder for killing Laquan McDonald” (October 5, 2018) Wash. Post.https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/10/05/chicago-police-officer-jason-van-dyke-convicted-of-second-degree-murder-for-killing-laquan-mcdonald/?utm_term=.c8de224adc1c

 

[8]Id.

 

[9]Id.

 

[10]Id.

 

[11]CNN Wire “Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke found guilty of second-degree murder in Laquan McDonald killing” Fox 13 Salt Lake City (Oct 6 2018)https://fox13now.com/2018/10/06/chicago-police-officer-jason-van-dyke-found-guilty-of-second-degree-murder-in-laquan-mcdonald-killing/

 

[12]Id.

 

[13]Id.

 

[14]Id.

 

[15]Legal Information Institute , 5 U.S. Code §3331-Oath of Office.https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/5/3331

 

[16]Mark Guarino & Mark Berman, “Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke convicted of second-degree murder for killing Laquan McDonald” (October 5, 2018) Wash. Post.https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/10/05/chicago-police-officer-jason-van-dyke-convicted-of-second-degree-murder-for-killing-laquan-mcdonald/?utm_term=.c8de224adc1c

 

 

[17]Id.

 

[18]Darran Simon, “Laquan McDonald’s family peace, no matter the outcome of trial for officer who killed him” CNN (September 17, 2018) https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/06/us/chicago-trial-officer-van-dyke-laquan-mcdonald/index.html

[19]Id.

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