A Chicago police officer, who knew she needed to shoot a violent assailant high on PCP but didn’t because she feared a backlash, is now recovering in a hospital after the savage beating that ensued.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the officer, a 17-year veteran of the force, knew she should shoot the attacker but hesitated because “she didn’t want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on the national news,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
Johnson’s remarks, which came at an awards ceremony for police and firefighters, underscore a point law enforcement officers and some political leaders have pressed repeatedly as crime has risen in Chicago and other major cities: that police are reluctant to use force or act aggressively because they worry about negative media attention that will follow.
The issue has become known as the Ferguson effect, named after the St. Louis suburb where a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in August 2014. The shooting set off protests and riots that summer and eventually gave way to a fevered national debate over race and policing. Many law enforcement officers have said that the intense focus on policing in the time since has put them on the defensive and hindered their work.
The 43-year-old officer, who is still unidentified, was responding to a car crash Wednesday when a 28-year-old man who was involved in the accident punched her in the face, according to Johnson, who is black.
Johnson said the suspect repeatedly smashed the officer’s head against the pavement in an attack that went on for several minutes. Two other officers were injured as they attempted to pull the suspect off the officer. They also wound up in the hospital after being assaulted by the drug-addled perp. The suspect was finally subdued after officers tasered and pepper-sprayed him.
Johnson said he visited the officer in the hospital, where she told him why she did not draw her service weapon during the attack.
“She looked at me and said she thought she was going to die,” he told the audience at the awards ceremony. “And she knew that she should shoot this guy. But she chose not to because she didn’t want her family or the department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news.”
“This officer could [have] lost her life last night,” Johnson continued. “We have to change the narrative of law enforcement across this country.”
The head of Chicago’s police union said the incident showed what goes through an officer’s head now in these life-or-death situations. Police “don’t want to become the next YouTube video,” Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, told the Chicago Tribune.
Their concerns are “legitimate,” according to “Officer Blue” of the police blog Blue Lives Matter:
The man was presumably “unarmed” which would have been considered by many to be proof that lethal force was unjustified. The media would have fixated on the incident and sensationalized it in an attempt to get ratings. As in prior lethal force incidents, the resulting backlash could have destroyed the officer’s career, she would have been publicly vilified, her family would likely have been flooded with threats, and Chicago PD’s reputation would again be dragged through the mud.
Officer Blue tells officers, “Your families need you. Don’t allow the media and Black Lives Matter groups to intimidate you and leave your children and spouses to try to go on without you.”
We never want to see another officer die because they were unable to defend their lives with a necessary amount of force. Black Lives Matter political groups are constantly lobbying to take away the right of officers to defend their lives. To stand against this multi-million dollar political lobbying machine, we only have the men and women of law enforcement and those of you who declare that Blue Lives Matter.
Chicago police blog Second City Cop reports:
Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been trying desperately to coax Chicago Police officers out of their defensive crouch. Their reluctance is believed to have contributed, in part, to a 50 percent surge in homicides and shootings.
But when a 17-year veteran feels compelled to choose great bodily harm — or death — over using deadly force just to save herself from “having to go through the manufactured outrage of a criminal community out or control,” that is a tall order.
The police blogger asks, “What kind of service does the ‘community’ think it’s going to get when this is the first thought going through an officer’s head?”