After a Missouri grand jury announced Monday that it will not indict a white police officer for fatally shooting an unarmed, black teenager Chicago’s black community responded with disappointment and said it was not surprised by the decision.
“Today’s grand jury decision to not file charges against Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown is extremely disappointing. It is disappointing because the external evidence from witnesses on the scene that fateful day indicate that Michael Brown was unarmed and moving away from the officer with his hands up,” said Andrea Zopp, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “Equally disappointing is the length of the grand jury investigation which undercuts the credibility of its determination. It is disheartening that, after three months of convening, the grand jury found no reason to charge Darren Wilson with the murder of Michael Brown. As a result, Wilson will not be held accountable for the shooting death of an unarmed teenager.”
White House officials said President Barack Obama will address the nation this week about the grand jury decision.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said people need to remember that the grand jurors are “the only ones who have heard all the evidence.”
Still, Tio Hardiman, executive director of the nonprofit Violence Interrupters Inc., said there is “no excuse for excessive force in the Michael Brown shooting. How can you just kill an unarmed man.”
The death of Brown this summer set off a national debate about race especially in towns like Ferguson where most residents are black but most police officers are white.
Ferguson is not alone when it comes to mostly white police officers working in predominately black neighborhoods. Just a few years ago Chicago wrestled with that same problem, according to quarterly reports by the city’s Independent Police Review Authority, which is a city agency created September 2007 by the City Council to replace the former Office of Professional Standards.
A total of 9,307 complaints were filed against Chicago cops in 2008, according to IPRA The following year it bumped to 9,557 and last year complaints leaped to 10,374. The quarterly reports covered complaints filed between January 2008 and December 2010. And the complaints filed during this time span covered a wide spectrum of allegations from excessive force to misconduct.
But while overall complaints are up, complaints alleging excessive force are down, according to IPRA’s Annual Report for 2009-2010. During this period 1,754 complaints for excessive force were filed and IPRA’s 2008-2009 Annual Report recorded 2,053 excessive force complaints based on its calendar year, which runs from October 1 to September 30.
Patricia Hill, former executive director for the African American Police League in Chicago and a retired cop, said complaints may have risen during time span because most officers working in black communities are white.
“We need more black officers,” explained Hill. “You have to remember that police come in contact with the community (more) than any other profession. And when you place white officers in predominately Black communities a negative situation is bound to happen.”
The quarterly reports by IPRA also identified which of the city’s 25 police district did the allegation occur. And complaints were high in police districts located in black communities, according to ab Examiner analysis.
Between January 2008 and December 2010 District 8 located at 3420 W. 63rd St. had 1,154 complaints filed. District 11 located at 3151 W. Harrison St., in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side, had 1,145. District 6 located at 7808 S. Halsted St. in Auburn Gresham had 1,100; District 4 located at 2255 E. 103rd St. in South Chicago had 1,044; District 7 located at 1438 W. 63rd St. in Englewood, had 1,040; District 3 located at 7040 S. Cottage Grove Ave. in Grand Crossing, had 955; District 5 located at 727 E. 111th St. in Pullman, had 832; and District 2 located at 5101 S. Wentworth Ave., in Bronzeville had 699.
Demonstrators lined up outside Chicago Police headquarters Monday and after the decision was announced began marching in the streets toward Downtown.
In a statement, Brown’s family urged supporters to demonstrate peacefully.
“We are not here to be violent. We are here in memory of our son. We are here for protection of all children. We are here to support justice and equality for all people. We lift our voices to ensure black and brown men, women and children can live in this country without being devalued because of the color of our skin,” the family said in a statement.
And Zopp said while she understands how frustrated blacks must feel about the grand jury decision she reminded blacks that they have an obligation to honor Michael Brown’s memory with peaceful protests.
“Anything else would undercut his memory,” she said. “We must continue to fight for better treatment from and interactions with the police and the African American community. We have lost too many African American men in police killings under questionable circumstances and we must build a better platform for our interactions with the police. We must not allow this injustice towards the life of Michael Brown to stand without strategic and impactful community action.”