It’s Never About the Bad Apples

A Chicago police officer shot a guy, has been charged with murder, and people are going full ALL LIVES MATTER on it, natch: 

Last December, Kalven and Futterman issued a statement revealing the existence of a dash-cam video and calling for its release.  Kalven tracked down a witness to the shooting, who said he and other witnesses had been “shooed away” from the scene with no statements or contact information taken.

In February, Kalven obtained a copy of McDonald’s autopsy, which contradicted the official story that McDonald had died of a single gunshot to the chest. In fact, he’d been shot 16 times—as Van Dyke unloaded his service revolver, execution style—while McDonald lay on the ground.

The next month, the City Council approved a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, whose attorneys had obtained the video. They said it showed McDonald walking away from police at the time of the shooting, contradicting the police story that he was threatening or had “lunged at” cops. The settlement included a provision keeping the video confidential.

“The real issue here is, this terrible thing happened, how did our governmental institutions respond?” Kalven said.  “And from everything we’ve learned, compulsively at every level, from the cops on the scene to the highest levels of government, they responded by circling the wagons and by fabricating a narrative that they knew was completely false.”  To him this response is “part of a systemic problem” and preserves “the underlying conditions that allow abuse and shield abuse.”

And everybody is urging “the black community” to remain calm, as if “the black community” shot a guy 16 times while he lay on the ground. The state’s attorney, during her press conference, mentioned “a few bad apples” to assuage the ONLY COPS MATTER crowd, not that anything will:

Which is beyond the point. Which is about 400 miles beyond the point. Of course there are bad apples who go too far and break the law. The point is that the law is then supposed to stop them. The law is not then supposed to delete security video from a nearby Burger King, intimidate witnesses, buy silence, and then act as if its sacred honor is being impugned when called on its shit.

“This was an incredible test of leadership, a major challenge to [Emanuel’s] leadership,” Kalven said.  “Think how different the situation would be right now if the city had acknowledged the reality of what happened in the days or weeks after it happened. That would have built confidence.”

And instead of vague and politically self-serving calls for “healing,” it could have begun a real process of accountability of the kind necessary to start addressing the extreme alienation between police and wide segments of our communities.

Instead, with only Van Dyke indicted, it looks like he’s being sacrificed in order to protect the system that created him.

Any entrenched power structure will protect itself, first last and always. This is one of those rules of the world that once you see it, you see the strings that suspend everything, and you never ask how could this happen.

How could this happen, when you make a club, tell everyone in it they are virtuous in ways those outside it are not, create oaths of allegiance and make people swear them, create secret rituals and forbid talking about them, cloak your daily activities in the language of the wars of civilizations and make it plain the penalty for questioning this entire bucketload of bullshit is ostracization from what you have become convinced is the only family that truly cares for you?

How could this happen? How could it not? The Catholic Church, Penn State, political parties that hide members’ malfeasance, universities that chastise rape victims … they’re all power protecting itself. How could this happen? It happens over and over, all the time, and once you see it you see it everywhere. It happened in this case. It happened here.


5 thoughts on “It’s Never About the Bad Apples

  1. Great point. The other part of this is to make it very hard for reforms to happen from the inside. Whistleblowers and journalists are a threat to power structures.
    So you make it harder for both.

  2. I’ve made this post at some other places, not sure if I did it here, but this is my rebuttal to the “all lives matter” nonsense, for nonsense it is.

    You can tell which lives matter by the follow-up after a murder. Do the authorities mobilize all resources at their disposal to catch the killer, including soliciting leads from the public, complete with rewards for any information leading to the apprehension and conviction of the perpetrator? Or do the authorities throw up a brick wall against any information leaking out, usually behind the smokescreen of an “ongoing investigation”? Lives in the first instance matter; lives in the second instance don’t.

    Are the grieving families and friends of the victim allowed free, uncritical rein to express their feelings in public, including sorrow, anger, and even thirst for murderous retribution against the killers? Do they receive a sympathetic, understanding hearing from the local media? Or, are the survivors told to remain calm, and urged to let the system work, no matter how long it might take for even the most routine releases of information? Are any expressions of grief, frustration, or anger met in the local media with tut-tutting about the unseemliness of it all? Lives in the first instance matter; in the second instance don’t.

    Why aren’t there any marches and demonstrations through the heart of the city when a white officer is killed? Because they’re unnecessary; the official response is swift and thorough, because that life mattered. When the official response is sluggardly and haphazard, it’s apparent that the life taken didn’t matter.

    With respect to Jamie Kalven, this isn’t really a test of leadership. Any actual leader would have gotten to the bottom of this murder as soon as possible. Murderous cops don’t reflect well on any aspect of a city. Mayor Emanuel clearly doesn’t recognize this, because he’s not a leader; he’s a craven lickspittle pandering to the worst corruption in the city.

  3. I’m always waiting for them to complete the line about bad apples. That they spoil the whole barrel.

    “Just” a few bad apples, as though they were not in a barrel at all.

  4. As a 70 year old white guy, I’ve never had any interaction with the police. I’ve always assumed that the courts gave the police the benefit of the doubt, given the nature of their jobs. I thought that city governments might sweep brutality or harassment incidents under the rug, but I never thought that they would cover up first degree murder. But after the Fairfax shooting and now this, I get it. I really do get it and I have to believe that a whole lot of other 70 year white guys will get it as well.

Comments are closed.