The Chicago police union hired Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who fatally shot Laquan McDonald, the union’s president, Dean Angelo, announced last week.
Angelo described the position as a “jack-of-all-trades” role: “He might be on the roof, he might be in the office, he does anything we need.” Van Dyke will earn $12 an hour at this job.
Van Dyke shot 17-year-old McDonald 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014, killing the teenager. Officers at the scene alleged that McDonald lunged at them. However, McDonald’s death sparked controversy and protests because the city of Chicago withheld video footage of the shooting for over a year. 400 days after the shooting, the video went public and showed that not only did McDonald not advance towards the officers but in fact was backing away from them. Van Dyke opened fire and continued shooting even as McDonald lay on the ground motionless, the video shows.
Protesters following the release of the video included Rev. Jesse Jackson, who called for “bold comprehensive change in the police department and the criminal justice system.”
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder on the same day the video was released. He has pleaded not guilty. Initially following the shooting, Van Dyke was on paid administrative leave. But after the charges were filed, he was no longer being paid.
Protesters are not happy with the police union’s decision. The Rev. Michael Pfleger, who frequently speaks out on issues regarding gun violence, took to Facebook to express his outrage with the situation:
“The F.O.P. has just Hired VAN DYKE, yes the cop who murdered Laquan McDonald….The Police Union says to Chicago…we don’t give a damn what he did, what you think, he is one of ours, and we are going to take care of him…we get a new Supt. who is trying to restore police and community relations and the Union just SET THEM BACK ALL OVER AGAIN!….This is a disgrace!….Fire the whole union!!……EVERY UNION MEMBER SHOULD DEMAND HE BE FIRED!!!!!!”
Trust in the Chicago police has been broken for a long time, and some citizens believe this decision only drives a further wedge between the police and community.
Jedidiah Brown, founder of the Young Leaders Alliance, questioned, “While we’re working very hard as a city to repair the relationship between the police and the community, what do they think this was going to do?”
Brown also posted on Twitter, “The F.O.P. just declared war with the people of Chicago. The ultimate slap in the face is to hire a man who shot a child sixteen times.”
“When they go home and take that uniform off, they’re regular citizens. They’re human beings,” said Jared Steverson, an activist. “They’re just like me, they breathe like me, they talk like me, they bleed like me, but they don’t get the same judicial process as me, and that’s where it has to change.”
However, Angelo called the decision “nothing new” and said that many people who were not receiving pay, like Van Dyke, have been hired by the police union.
In a statement, the union said it reached its decision because the high profile shooting led to threats against Van Dyke and his family and made Van Dyke “unemployable.”
“For anyone to believe that the lodge entered into this arrangement without consideration and forethought is improper and shortsighted,” the statement read. “Accuracy under these circumstances is paramount to truly grasping the significance to the decision made.”
But citizens are already protesting — including Brown, who posted on Facebook over the weekend, “Now with time we are organizing a bigger crowd to protest the F.O.P for hiring Jason Van Dyke who murdered Laquan Mcdonald with extreme ease, this week i (sic) will spend ALL my free time at that door and pray I never see him entering. I didnt (sic) go up there for a sound bite, I went demanding he be fired and will see it through. He should not be working for an institution designed for honorable Police officers and not criminals. #chicagolife.”
The city took one step in the right direction as a result of protests in the wake of McDonald’s death. Following outcries from angry citizens when the video footage finally came to light, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Activists also called for Emanuel to step down but he refused. Emanuel named a new police chief, Eddie Johnson, who is a 27-year veteran to the force, this past March.