WATCH: Chicago Police Handcuff, Slam Man Down For License Plate Light

Chicago – The city’s independent police watchdog last week released body-camera video of Chicago police officers arresting a 20-year-old driver at a South Side gas station, a confrontation that included the man being forced roughly to the pavement, pinned and handcuffed.

After stopping his car, two plainclothes officers on the new video can be heard telling the driver, who is black, they had noticed he didn’t use a turn signal and that the light over his license plate was out. But once he was out of his car, an attempt to search him ended with two officers pushing him down, kneeling on him and cuffing his hands as the man yelled in protest.

On the list of videos made public by the Independent Police Review Authority in recent years, the footage barely registered a blip in a city long used to controversies over how officers treat citizens. The images depict no shocking shooting of an unarmed person, and no protests or marches followed its release.

But the video is notable for other reasons, according to experts and others who viewed it at the Tribune’s request. Police body cameras have proliferated in Chicago in recent years and now capture scenes of routine police activity in neighborhoods struggling with crime — images that can spur opposing reactions depending on who is viewing them.

The reaction to the video release from the city’s largest police union, for example, focused on the difficult job officers have in being proactive about potential crime.

“We believe the video illustrates the hard work and pressure police officers face every day in trying to protect Chicago’s citizens,” Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham said in a statement Thursday. “We also believe most citizens are grateful for their service.”

It’s a common police tactic for officers to make stops for minor infractions as they probe for more significant targets such as guns and narcotics. Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has said he wants his officers to stay aggressive while also being mindful of citizens’ rights and the fact that their actions are often caught on video.

Others, however, complained about what they saw on the newly released footage as unequal treatment of a young black man in Chicago, questioning why he was stopped in the first place. A far cry from footage of the fatal police shooting of African-American teenager Laquan McDonald, the tape, they said, shows problems with Chicago police’s approach to everyday policing.

Locke Bowman, a civil rights law professor at Northwestern University, questioned whether race could have played a role and why the driver was questioned. The officers who took him into custody were Hispanic.

The driver, Corey Williams of Richton Park, recently had been a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and told the officers he was home on break, though a school representative told the Tribune he was not enrolled at the time of his arrest on the night of Nov. 21, 2016. Williams was charged with resisting arrest, a misdemeanor, and he was ticketed for not having a functioning license plate light, failing to use a turn signal, failing to show a valid driver’s license and failing to show proof of insurance.

The criminal charge and the traffic tickets all were dropped the following month.

“I’m a 63-year-old white guy,” said Bowman, a frequent critic of the Chicago Police Department. “I drive all the time. No police officer in all my years of driving since I was 16 has ever pulled me over for failure to signal. Ever. I’ve never been pulled over for having a light out.”

“The whole thing is remarkably stupid,” he said. “It’s evident that the officers’ interpersonal skills, their diplomacy, their management of their own emotions, their skills in de-escalation are very poor. And this rapidly turns into an arrest that didn’t have to happen.”

The Rev. Marshall Hatch, a pastor who heads the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church on the West Side, thought the police shown in the footage were “way over the top” for the reasons they gave for stopping the young driver. People in the African-American community experience this kind of treatment from the police every day, Hatch said.

“No way in the world that should have ended with that kind of physical abuse,” he said. “Very disturbing to watch, to be honest.”

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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