From the first day they put on their badges and many days thereafter, police officers throughout the United States recite the The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor. Key passages of the oath include a promise to "never betray my badge" and "always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions." Sadly, as many Philadelphia residents know, this oath is betrayed by some police officers on a daily basis.
One of the most blatant and egregious examples of police misconduct and corruption came to light after members of the Chicago Police Department attempted to cover up the unjustified shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
The Police Shooting
According to news reports, in the evening hours of Oct. 20, 2014, Chicago police officers responded to reports of a young black man who appeared to be breaking into parked vehicles. Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was among several officers who responded to the call. Within seconds of arriving on the scene and exiting his vehicle, Van Dyke opened fire on and killed the 17-year-old teen.
According to the official police report, which included accounts from Van Dyke and several of his fellow responding police officers, McDonald was wielding a knife and lunging towards Van Dyke when the officer shot the teen 16 times. However, police car dash cam video of the shooting showed what really happened.
The Police Cover-up
While the city's police department and politicians fought to keep the dash cam video from becoming public, a judge finally ordered that the footage be released in November of 2015; more than one year after McDonald's shooting.
What residents throughout Chicago and the United States saw in the video was McDonald, holding a knife but walking away from and posing no threat to police officers, as he was brutally shot down and then repeatedly shot while his body lay on the ground.
The release of the video set off riots by angry residents throughout Chicago and across the U.S., and calls for the city's police chief and mayor to step down. It also triggered an investigation of the CPD by the U.S. Department of Justice that revealed a police department with a long history of racism, misconduct and corruption.
Criminal Charges Filed Against Police Officers
Today, Officer Van Dyke faces criminal charges including first-degree murder, aggravated battery and official misconduct. Three other Chicago police officers, who were involved in the cover up of the shooting, also face multiple criminal charges related to conspiracy, official misconduct and obstruction of justice.