Wed, 25 November 2015
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
From Hanrahan to Daley to Alvarez, Protecting Killer Cops is a Chicago Prosecutorial Tradition
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
The city of Chicago yesterday released a video it had held for 400 days of a police officer apparently murdering a young man with a knife walking away from him. Police announced that the officer, who'd been on paid leave that entire 400 days, would be suspended without pay. Cook County States Attorney Anita Alvarez's office, which had “investigated” the case that entire time finally announced that Officer Van Dyke would be charged with first degree murder.
Upon viewing the video, as hundreds of thousands of people have by now, the obvious questions are why the Cook County States Attorney took 13 months, instead of 13 days or 13 hours or 13 minutes to come up with that murder indictment? Unfortunately this easy and obvious question has an easy and obvious answer. Anita Alvarez is the same states attorney who deliberately sabotaged the case against the killer cop who shot Rekia Boyd by charging him with manslaughter instead of murder, a charge which the judge was forced to dismiss, neatly immunizing the killer cop from further prosecution.
States Attorney Alvarez is part of a long tradition of Chicago prosecutors who aid, abet and sometimes hire and directly supervise killer cops to do what they do. Before Richard M. Daley was mayor for twenty years he was the county's top prosecutor who accepted and carried to court all the cases built upon the torture of innocent black men by Chicago Police commander John Burge. And when we talk about infamous Cook County States Attorneys nobody should forget that the 1969 murder of Chicago Illinois Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was executed by a squad of Chicago cops (except for the lead sergeant, whose identity and affiliation are unclear) under the direct supervision of the states attorney's office.
Alvarez comes up for re-election in November 2016, and people are pointing to a rival in the Democratic primary election as the one to vote for. Should a tidal wave of public indignation ends the political career of Anita Alvarez next year it will be a kind of justice, but only of a very limited sort.
Edward V. Hanrahan was thrown out of office by a tidal wave of public disgust over the assassination of Fred Hampton. His political career was over, but not much else changed. And now, just as then there are a lot of things that need changing in Chicago.
The city just had a reform candidate for mayor who barely seemed to notice the Chicago Police black site at Homan Square, an issue that should have been a rallying point for black Chicago around his campaign. That same reform candidate kicked off his campaign and stump speech with a pledge to hire a thousand more Chicago cops, in a city which already has one of the highest police-to-civilian ratios in the country, and which clearly protects its corrupt and brutal cops from any accountability to civilians. And let's not talk about Chicago's media, which, when the Homan Square story broke in a British paper, spent its reporters time trying to debunk instead of investigating it.
The enabling of killer cops is a tradition in Chicago, as it is around the country. Anita Alvarez can and should be swept from office next November. But it will take a lot of elections, and a lot more than just elections to change the system that brought us Hanrahan, Daley, and now Alvarez.
For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a Chicagoan now living in exile near Marietta GA. He's a member of the state committee of the GA Green Party and can be reached via email at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.