Thursday, December 10, 2015

New police video prompts rebuke by Chicago mayor

There is no doubt that Chicago cops are a rough lot --  those they deal with are mainly a rough lot too -- but all cops should be given some latitude when dealing with the mentally ill, who can be both unpredictable and violent. Psychiatrists do many years of training to enter their profession.  Cops cannot be expected to live up to that level of understanding.   And in general an  uncompliant person may need heavy treatment to enforce compliance. Regrettably, many blacks are uncompliant.

The Chicago Police Department, facing almost daily protests and a newly announced Justice Department investigation, released footage Monday night showing a 38-year-old black man being shocked by a Taser and dragged down a hallway by officers in 2012.

The man, Philip Coleman, later died at a hospital. A county medical examiner noted trauma on Coleman’s body, but said his death had been caused by an allergic reaction to a medication given at the hospital. A lawyer for the Coleman family said he believed the repeated shocks contributed to Coleman’s death.

The officers’ treatment of Coleman, a college graduate whose family said he was having mental health problems, received a withering rebuke from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose handling of other police use-of-force cases has prompted calls for his resignation, and who has announced a series of policy changes and personnel moves in recent days as pressure mounted.

“I do not see how the manner in which Mr. Coleman was physically treated could possibly be acceptable,” Emanuel said in a statement released Monday night, along with the video. He added, “Something is wrong here — either the actions of the officers who dragged Coleman, or the policies of the department.”

Emanuel said he had not received a “sufficient answer” about how the officers treated Coleman, “and as a result I do not consider this case to be closed or the investigation into what happened that night to be over.”

The footage of Coleman joins a grim, growing collection of Chicago police videos released in recent weeks. The fallout from the videos has led to the departure of the police superintendent, the creation of a task force to study police accountability, the replacement of the head of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, a federal investigation into Chicago police practices, and a series of protests that continued Monday evening.

Hours before the Coleman video was made public, prosecutors released footage of a Chicago officer fatally shooting Ronald Johnson, who was 25 and black, in the back in 2014. The police and prosecutors said Johnson was armed with a handgun, a claim disputed by family members. The officer who shot Johnson was not charged with a crime.

Also, on Nov. 24, on a judge’s order, city officials released video from a dashboard camera from 2014 that showed Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots at Laquan McDonald, who was 17 and black. Most of the shots were fired after the teenager, who was carrying a knife but veering away from officers, had fallen to the ground. Van Dyke told investigators he feared for his safety, but prosecutors charged him last month with first-degree murder.

Although the video releases in the Johnson and McDonald shootings had been widely anticipated here, Coleman’s case had played out with less media attention. But the manner in which the Coleman footage was released — at the end of a busy news day, and with detailed statements from Emanuel and John J. Escalante, the interim police superintendent — suggested that city leaders recognized the potential for intense scrutiny at a time when many protesters have accused the Chicago police of systemic mistreatment of black people.

Coleman was arrested on Dec. 12, 2012, after the police responded to a report that he had assaulted his mother. Coleman was held in a Chicago police lockup on the city’s Far South Side, where he is shown on surveillance video resting in a small cell with spartan furnishings.

At one point, six uniformed officers enter the cell, and Coleman sits up. He appears to speak for a minute or so with the police before the encounter becomes more tense. Several officers are shown physically restraining Coleman, and a Taser is deployed. An officer then drags Coleman out of the cell.

Coleman’s father, Percy, a longtime Illinois law enforcement official, said he believed that the officers involved in his son’s detention should be charged with crimes, and that the case was emblematic of broader racial disparities in Chicago policing.

“Somebody in this city needs to be responsible for killing my son, and the Chicago police are at the head of this table,” the elder Coleman said. “They broke every rule in the book.”

Police documents released with the video contend that Philip Coleman was combative in the cell and that he also fought with officers after being taken to a hospital, where an officer shocked him again with a Taser. The officer was in “fear of sustaining serious injury,” the documents said.

Original report here

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