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Between cops and blacks, a lack of respect

Updated: November 5, 2011 5:19PM



In the wake of a controversial police-involved shooting in Humboldt Park, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy asked questions that deserve answers.

“What’s going on that people are willing to pull out guns and shoot at police officers . . . and why would you run? Why would you point a weapon at the police?” he asked.

Unfortunately, what’s going on is the same thing that has been going on too long. There is too little respect between police officers and citizens in African-American communities.

This has nothing to do with rap music or violent videos and everything to do with real-life cases in which real citizens have been wronged by real police officers.

The day after McCarthy defended police who shot two young black males, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the city had agreed to pay $6.5 million to the family of 8-year-old Gregory Jones.

In 2004, the boy was run over by an unmarked police car driven by two officers who were accused of making up a story about why they were driving recklessly in traffic.

The truth of the matter was never established, as the city settled the lawsuit seven years after the boy’s death without determining whether the police officers fabricated a story to cover themselves.

The officer who was driving the car resigned from the police department. The other officer is still on the force.

The city’s taxpayers footed the bill, but there is no satisfaction. And as far as a lot of residents in minority communities are concerned, these cops got away with abusing their police power.

Now we are faced with a police shooting that is national news because a Chicago police officer put eight holes in a 13-year-old boy who was allegedly carrying a BB gun.

No matter how you see it — whether you believe Jimmell Cannon was unarmed, or whether you believe he toted a BB gun that looked like an AK-47 — the bottom line is a police officer shot a 13-year-old boy eight times and what was recovered was a BB gun.

I don’t blame the police officer for what happened. After all, six Chicago police officers were killed in the line of duty last year. If a suspect points a gun at a cop, you should expect the cop to start firing.

But when a 13-year-old boy is shot eight times, and police have to admit it was because he was aiming a BB gun at them, then that seems to be the time to express regret.

Instead, on a popular blog, Second City Cop, written by a police officer, the shooting victim is described as a “dumbass kid.” The site also posted a photograph of Jimmell and claimed that he confessed to “shooting out windows at the Piccolo School and a van in the 11th District before he pointed it at an officer.”

“That dumbass kid is lucky to be breathing in the hospital instead of pushing up daisies at Burr Oak, though that will probably happen soon enough anyway,” the police officer wrote.

Obviously, I support the First Amendment, but how is it helpful to have a police officer denigrating the victim of a controversial police shooting, especially when the victim is a juvenile?

Moreover, when did police get the alleged “confession?”

Jimmy Porter, Jimmell’s father, claims that police officers “crowded” into his son’s hospital room and questioned him without a parent being present.

If that happened, it would appear to violate the juvenile’s rights. But more than that, under the circumstances, such aggression seems cruel.

Police “are trying to make my son out to be a problem child and trying to set it up like he gave them a reason to shoot him eight times,” Porter told me.

“I don’t know anybody walking around here that would have to be shot eight times to be subdued.”

So far, criminal charges have not been filed against Jimmell, and a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department did not respond to questions about this shooting.

Jimmell’s family has hired a lawyer, and the Independent Police Review Authority will launch its investigation into the shooting.

But what is really needed is a level of dialogue about this issue that fosters respect.

Without it, many of the people in neighborhoods most affected by police shootings will see this incident as another stone tossed onto a growing mountain of distrust.



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