Fatal Police Shooting In Chicago Highlights Tense Relationship In The City

Jul 16, 2018
Originally published on July 16, 2018 7:43 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now to Chicago, where a fatal police shooting over the weekend has inflamed tensions between police and some people who live in mostly black and Latino neighborhoods of the city. Over the last few years, Chicago police have made a number of reforms that the city says has made it - have made a difference. Activists say the fatal encounters show otherwise. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting) How many people will you kill today? CPD, KKK.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: It didn't take long for angry residents to pour into the streets to confront Chicago police after they shot and killed a neighborhood barber, 37-year-old Harith Augustus, on Saturday night. Authorities said officers approached Augustus because they thought he may have a gun.

The anger, the protest and the death mirrored another tragic incident that prompted widespread protests a few years ago. That's when the city released a videotape showing officers fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. This time, instead of it taking a court order for the release of the tape, Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson did it within 24 hours - a Chicago first.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EDDIE JOHNSON: Because the community needs some answers, and they need them now.

CORLEY: University of Chicago Law Professor Craig Futterman tracks the department's reforms and says releasing the video quickly is smart.

CRAIG FUTTERMAN: That's what police departments and what the Chicago police ought to do in every situation.

CORLEY: Chicago's decision to do so was years in the making and follows a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that castigated police after the Laquan McDonald shooting. The report found them poorly trained and often using excessive force, especially in communities of color.

Marvin Hunter, Laquan McDonald's great-uncle, says he's heard all the talk about reform at the police department, but he doesn't believe it. He says the video, which does show Augustus had a holstered gun, indicates the city's police training isn't that effective.

MARVIN HUNTER: This young man looked like he had his wallet in his hand. And he was actually talking to a police officer. The other two police officers approached him in a way that related to confrontation.

CORLEY: Police say Augustus is a registered gun owner but didn't disclose whether he had a license to carry a concealed weapon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHNSON: The Chicago Police Department is on the road to reform.

CORLEY: In a video, police Superintendent Johnson says the department has made sweeping changes. He points to the use of body cams and the expanded use of Tasers. Craig Futterman says there's been a backlash and resistance by the police union and others. He suspects a two-tier system of policing in Chicago, where police have a different set of practices in black and white communities.

FUTTERMAN: We still have a long way to go. There's - the reality still today is that there are still ongoing patterns and practices of civil rights violations by the Chicago police.

CORLEY: That's why the city and the Illinois attorney general are also negotiating a consent decree that would mandate more police reforms. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMANCIPATOR'S "LIONHEART") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.