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The Trib's Officer Shooting Story, Part II

By Margaret Lyons in News on Dec 6, 2007 9:52PM


The Trib rolled out Part II of its damning investigation of Chicago police officers shooting civilians, and it's just as intensive as Part I--plus it's accompanied by a harsh, determined editorial. God, agreeing with the Trib's editorial board...this is a whole new feeling.

Today's report focuses on Officer Phyllis Clinkscales, who shot and killed 17-year-old Robert Washington in June 2000, which sets up an analysis of how thoroughly police shootings are investigated. Guess what? It's not very thoroughly. Potentially drunk off-duty cops aren't even routinely given Breathalyzer tests after shootings, apparently, and when their blood alcohol levels are tested, it's often hours afterwards.

"Even when it was clearly apparent that what [an officer] did was wrong, they still got all the protections as if they were [an on-duty] policeman and were doing police work," said Thomas Smith, a former FBI agent who was the chief investigator for OPS from 1998 to early 2002.

Beyond the mishandling evidence collection, cops don't want to get other cops in trouble--along the lines of the "culture of not-knowing" in police brutality. From the Trib:

Hours after Officer Phyllis Clinkscales fatally shot a young man trying to steal her car, Chicago police investigators and commanders ruled the shooting justified.

They have stood by that conclusion even as she gave differing accounts of what happened the night she shot 17-year-old Robert Washington in June 2000.

They stood by her even though all four of the gunshot wounds were on the back right side of Washington's head and neck, including a "muzzle imprint" that suggested the gun barrel had been pressed against his skin.

They stood by her even after the department's civilian oversight agency found her account didn't square with the autopsy on Washington and initially recommended she be fired.

Where's Mayor "You Can Do Better" Daley on all this? Nowhere. He said the new superintendent will look into stuff, and that the new-and-they-say-improved Independent Police Review Authority (nee OPS) is taking care of things. Inspiring.

Cop car by Pantagrapher.