Up to a point, each argument has its merits. But tribal politics will not prevent it from happening again. As Juliana Stratton, Governor of Illinois put it on a related matter: “We are tired of being sick and tired.”
What I think could make progress is for each side in this struggle to take their responsibility for what happened to Adam Toledo and then work toward real change, the kind of changes that the Illinois General Assembly recently made in a big way Criminal Justice Reform Package.
Let’s start with the cops.
After events spawned by Laquan McDonald and George Floyd and Jon Burge, as well as numerous other well-known names of victims and perpetrators, many people will have difficulty giving the officer involved in this shooting the benefit of the doubt. After all, the video shows Toledo’s hands up when the fatal shot was fired.
But the video also shows that less than a second ago, Toledo appeared to have a gun behind a fence that he was leaning on. If further investigation reveals that it was, the question arises: what would you do after reports of gunfire in the neighborhood at 2:30 a.m. if someone carrying a gun runs away and then suddenly stops and closes You turned around?
It is also noteworthy that in this incident, unlike the Floyd or McDonald cases, the police immediately sought medical attention. Her body cameras were on and not working mysteriously.
That being said, every Chicago cop’s first mission must be to find friends and allies, not enemies, of the people they have sworn to serve and protect. There is too much ill will, especially among people of color. The police must take responsibility for this – all in their hearts – otherwise, in large parts of Chicago, they will continue to be treated like an enemy occupation army. And that means working with former Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan and not opposing the implementation of the reform approval decree that was forced upon the city. Ultimately, rebuilding trust will make the average officer’s life much, much easier.
Then there are the police critics.
While having more than legitimate concerns and understandable impatience, there are a few things that they need to realize and acknowledge.
For one thing, there is no excuse for a 13-year-old to be on the street at 2:30 a.m. with a reported gang member who likes to fire his gun.
I don’t know enough about Toledo’s family situation to judge at all. However, an insightful look from Mateo Zapata of his situation in the Tribune today suggests that he was a special needs child who did not get the help he needed and turned to a gang to take him in.
This article also suggests that the schools that too many young people relied on for refuge were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m looking at you, Chicago Teachers Union. You have too often pretended that the only thing that matters in life is ensuring the absolute safety of your members. A price has been paid for this attitude because too many young people have too much time and insufficient support or supervision.
Back to the bigger question. Yes, more public funding is needed for workplaces and training programs, de-escalation training and related matters. Police critics are right. But calls for defunding come at a time when Chicago crime continues to rise. The number of murders so far this year has increased by 33 percent, the number of shooting events by 39 percent and the number of vehicle thefts by 14 percent. Is less police really the solution? Or would we get better results if we retrained and redeployed these police forces – combined with better options for the people, like the new jobs that the city’s Invest South / West program is trying to create?
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has tried to walk a fine line, is not immune to criticism here. But she’s absolutely right about one thing: “There are too many damn guns on our streets.” Those who continue to oppose reasonable public safety efforts by reducing the number of guns that flood Chicago are partly to blame. How many dead kids in Chicago is it worth not to “bother” someone in Tennessee who wants to buy a rifle without passing a background check?
The Criminal Justice Reform Act, which I referred to above, suggests that progress – and it will be slow and excruciating – is possible if we focus on it.
Yes, certain aspects, such as the termination of the bail, were controversial. But limiting the police’s choking hazard, limiting the use of deadly force, and providing mental health assistance to police officers while holding them accountable for their actions were steps in the right direction.
If we all withdraw to our factions and do nothing, there will be another Adam Toledo, just like there have been other Hadiya Pendletons. Do you remember her?
(I don’t lose the irony that we wrote the same headline about Hadiya in 2013.)
Let us all, including the media, take our share of responsibility here instead of running away. Chicago can’t go on like this.
Some similar feelings came from Governor JB Pritzker today. In comments at a press conference, Pritzker said one thing was clear to him: “The entire system” failed because of Toledo. The governor added: “We have a lot to do.”