CHICAGO a death trap for black men by the men and women in blue
IS IT SAFE FOR A BLACK MAN IN CHICAGO WHAT IS ON THE VIDEOS THAT WE HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO HEAR? ?
Newly released videos from four additional police vehicles at the scene of the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald raise questions about how the city’s Police Department documented the killing of an African-American teenager that has led to a Chicago cop being charged with first-degree murder.
The police dashboard camera videos also shed new light on how the events unfolded leading up to McDonald’s death by showing police response to the incident from new perspectives. That includes from the vehicle Officer Jason Van Dyke rode in as he briefly followed the 17-year-old McDonald before shooting him 16 times in the middle of Pulaski Road on the Southwest Side on Oct. 20, 2014.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Law Department released the videos from five separate police vehicles to the Chicago Tribune on Wednesday in response to an open records request. The videos, released on DVDs, included the one widely circulated publicly Tuesday that shows the most complete coverage of the shooting released to date.
All told, the videos show at least eight police vehicles responding to the shooting scene, and now the Emanuel administration has released videos from five of those vehicles. But no video has been provided from the three other vehicles, all of which were at the scene as the shooting unfolded.
The Tribune asked police, prosecutors and the mayor’s office whether those vehicles had video and requested any such video under open records law. The city has not responded to those questions.
Chicago Police Department orders require officers to use in-car video if the vehicle is equipped with it. According to that order, the in-car video system will automatically engage audio and video recording when the vehicle’s emergency lights are activated. Officers may also manually engage the recording system without activating the lights.
The question of why there is so little discernible sound on any of the videos is an important emerging issue that city officials have yet to address.
All the videos released to date include some sound, but most of it is just the faint noise of the vehicles’ sirens. The videos, including the one from Van Dyke’s vehicle, did not include any audio of officers talking, either in the vehicles or over police radios, raising questions about why sirens outside the vehicles are audible but voices and other sounds from inside the vehicle are not.
The Tribune put those questions to the Police Department, the office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez and the Law Department early Wednesday afternoon. None responded to the questions.
However, in a news conference Tuesday before releasing the now-viral video that shows McDonald’s shooting, Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was asked whether there was any audio on that footage.
“No, there was no audio with the tape that I saw, the video I saw,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think that audio does exist.”
Asked whether the police cameras were supposed to have sound, McCarthy responded, “There’s supposed to be (audio), and it’s supposed to happen at a couple different instances.
“This is one of the things that we are working on. Sometimes we have technical difficulties,” McCarthy said. “Sometimes officers need to be disciplined if they don’t turn it on at the right circumstance, which is why we are working out all the details.”
Again asked if any audio existed with footage of the shooting, McCarthy answered, “No, no, no there was no audio to my knowledge with any of the video that was taken. No, it didn’t exist.”
Only one of the five police dashboard camera videos that the Emanuel administration did release shows the shooting of McDonald, the same video the mayor was forced to release under an order by a Cook County judge.
The other DVDs released by the city show:
•A video of Van Dyke’s squad car following McDonald through the lawn of a Burger King restaurant and pulling up alongside him as he walked down the center of Pulaski.
•Another video of a squad car arriving at the shooting scene moments after McDonald crumpled to the ground. The video shows the teen appear to move slightly in the street with streams of blood trailing from his body.
•Two other videos from a pair of other police vehicles that drove up near the incident but appeared to be quickly dispatched to help set up a perimeter and control traffic.
The absence of any recorded discussions from officers in any of the five vehicles for which videos were released makes it impossible to discern what the officers might have discussed in their cars on the runup to the shooting of McDonald. In the charging papers against Van Dyke, prosecutors paraphrased radio traffic from four different cars responding to the incident.
The five videos vary in length, from just a few minutes to over a half-hour. Each also starts at different points in the sequence of events, with one squad car’s video not starting until after it’s already parked near an ambulance at the scene.
In charging Van Dyke with murder on Tuesday, Alvarez said that only one police dashboard camera recorded the shooting. While other Chicago police vehicles at the scene were equipped with working cameras, Alvarez said, none of the vehicles was positioned to capture the shooting.
The official recitation of evidence supporting the charge against Van Dyke filed by Alvarez’s office also stated “no audio was recorded” on the dashboard camera video that showed the shooting.
Alvarez’s office did not respond to questions Wednesday about whether her office had reached a conclusion as to why there was no sound of conversations inside the squad cars or over police radio on the videos.
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