Up front, I want readers to know that I have always been very supportive of most law enforcement officers. I have had family and friends serve in law enforcement and nearly served myself, except my vision at the time disqualified me.
However, I also have to admit that I have personally known some police officers who were real jerks and abused their authority. They are human and sinners like the rest of us, meaning that they are not perfect.
On October 20, 2014 Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke came upon a young black male who was walking erratically in the middle of the street and carrying a knife. Allegedly, officer Van Dyke ordered the male to stop. According to Van Dyke, the black teen refused to drop his knife and threatened the officer, so fearing for his life, he pulled his gun and shot Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him.
An initial police investigation cleared Officer Van Dyke of wrong doing and ruled the incident a justified shooting, but like any other incident where a police officer shoots a black person, black activists deny the official report and demand further investigation and criminal charges.
In this case, the police dash cam video was released to the public in November 2015 and it showed a different scenario than what officer Van Dyke had testified to. The dash cam video showed that within seconds of arriving on the scene, Van Dyke shot the teen as he was walking away from him.
The same day the video was released, Van Dyke was charged with the first-degree murder of McDonald.
Van Dyke’s trial was very high profile and just ended with the conviction of Officer Van Dyke. However, the jury did not convict him of first-degree murder, but did convict him of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery (1 for each shot Van Dyke fired). He now faces years in prison, something that is often certain death for police officers as they are more hated by fellow prisoners than child molesters are.
Was Van Dyke’s conviction justified or was he sacrificed to appease an angry ethnic segment of the city?
I wasn’t at the trial and didn’t hear the evidence presented, but based upon what I do know, I believe that Officer Van Dyke did act wrongly but I also place part of the blame on McDonald.
Van Dyke lied about what happened and he did shoot McDonald while he was walking away, indicating that he did not pose an immediate threat to Van Dyke. Based on that, Van Dyke should be convicted.
However, if McDonald had complied with Van Dyke and had stopped and dropped the knife, chances are Van Dyke would not have shot him and he would still be alive.
This is the same issue that led to the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Brown, Samuel DeBose and John Crawford III. Every one of them were black men who refused to comply with law enforcement and ended up dead as a result of their disobedience.
Laquan McDonald is dead because he and Officer Van Dyke BOTH acted wrongly, but it started with the wrongful actions of McDonald, but those actions did not justify the shooting.
Regardless of whether or not we believe the conviction of Officer Van Dyke was justified or not, the ramifications could prove deadly for many others.
More police officers will hesitate before using their weapons. This may sound like a good idea, but you have to realize that in some situations, that moment of hesitation could cost the officer his or her life. The verdict also will embolden a number of criminals to refuse to comply with police and either walk or run away. If the officer hesitates, the criminal can get away and victimize more people resulting in more injuries and deaths.
American society has degenerated to the point where criminals often have more rights than their victims and even more than law enforcement officers. Due to the poor judgements of both police and criminals, more police, more criminals and more innocent people will be victimized by the results of our decaying society.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.