A week ago, there were reports of a police standoff for five hours overnight in Edgewater that brought scores of police vehicles to a several block area and resulted in the arrests of over 30 men, women and children charged with a minor offense of disturbing the peace, a misdemeanor charge. Police were responding to gunshots that they ultimately determined came from behind the apartment and the 30 or partygoers. Many neighbors who were evacuated or told to go back into their houses, have continuing concerns about violence and drug activity in their mixed race, mixed income neighborhood. This is a sentiment they share with many urban Chicagoans. However, the incident bears reflection and raises many questions for our communities about responsible policing and the accountability of law enforcement.
Was the police action a measured response to legitimate concerns of violence? Or was the police response a show of force and intimidation directed at certain people? Why were over 30 people of color marched out of a residence and charged with minor crimes. Why was the neighborhood under siege for five hours and the streets packed curb to curb with police patrol cars, squadrols and armoured Hummer-style trucks?
We must ask these questions and others. We cannot afford to just accept a thin police narrative of events and move on. In Chicago, the police’s account of incidents has proven untrustworthy, as demonstrated by recent lawsuits that have impeached their versions of police shootings of Black men. As civilians it is incumbent upon us to ensure our public officials are accountable to us for their actions, including law enforcement personnel as our nation becomes increasingly desensitized to police violence tactics. This is not to judge or criticize with bias but bring fairness, justice and freedom from violence for all.
This was written by PLO attorney Janine Hoft