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Is it Any Wonder Why Cynicism Rules?

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 14, 2007 4:50PM

2007_08_danger.jpgFrom a public relations standpoint this has not been a banner couple weeks for the Chicago Police Department. First, the Reverend Al Sharpton opens a Chicago office for his National Action Network in order to address the issue of police brutality in Chicago. Days after Sharpton opened his office, 42-year-old Gefery Johnson died from injuries sustained after police Tasered and forcibly arrested him. Days after that, 18-year-old Aaron Harrison was shot to death by police in North Lawndale, leading to tensions between cops and neighborhood residents almost boiling over into more violence.

That's called a "perfect storm" by any definition. Rev. Sharpton capitalized on it last Friday, leading a protest outside Wallace's Catfish Corner on the West Side in his first public appearance since opening his new digs, calling for a "fair investigation" into Harrison's death. The only way the cops could have made it easier for Sharpton is if they had to arrest him by force.

Yesterday the families of Johnson and Harrison filed wrongful death lawsuits against the city. Living in a cynical society, we can't say that it wasn't unexpected to see lawsuits filed this quickly. What's interesting in the Harrison lawsuit, however, is the information that three security cameras were present in the vicinity of the shooting (two at an apartment building on the 1100 block of South Mozart, one at an industrial building on the 2800 block of West Roosevelt Road). Attorneys for Harrison's family want to know what's on the tapes, hoping that there's evidence to back up their claim that Harrison was unarmed at the time of his death, as witnesses to the shooting allege. Owners for all three cameras are cooperating with police to varying degrees. A recent autopsy report indicated that Harrison - who had an extensive arrest record that included one drug conviction - was shot in the left shoulder. This jibes with police accounts that Harrison was turning to fire a 9mm gun at them.

All this just adds fuel to the respective fires of all involved. The lawsuits will only lead to claims by supporters of the police department's action that the families are looking to "cash in" on their respective tragedies. For residents of North Lawndale and other depressed neighborhoods, it only furthers the mistrust of police that many residents harbor, unable to recognize that policing these neighborhoods is a rather thankless endeavor. And people on both sides wonder if Sharpton is acting with purely altruistic intentions. It'll continue like this in a vicious cycle until the root causes - poverty, education, et al - are addressed in an honest manner. Recent happenings like the opening of Austin Polytechnical Academy are only small steps. But they're necessary.