By La Risa Lynch
A Chicago Police Board meeting grew heated Thursday, with police trying to escort the brother of Rekia Boyd from the gathering after he continued to speak past his allotted time.
Martinez Sutton — whose sister Boyd was killed in 2012 by Chicago Police Officer Dante Servin — ultimately left with a group of supporters but not before shoving and shouting broke out.
The board meeting was aimed at gaining public input on the selection of the city's next police superintendent but many in the crowd were more interested in voicing objections to shootings by police.
Sutton has become a fixture at the police board meetings. On Thursday, he stood at a podium at police headquarters at 3510 S. Michigan Ave. and told board members, "All I'm asking for is a little justice for my sister."
A number of attendees had anticipated that the board would fire Servin Thursday night. The officer was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges for allegedly firing his gun into a crowd, killing Boyd, 22, on the West Side near Douglas Park, though the judge said Servin should have been charged with a more serious offense.
Chaos ensued when police tried to escort Sutton from the podium after his testimony ran over the allotted two minutes. A shoving match broke out as several supporters surrounded Sutton to prevent police from removing him and Sutton shouted, "Don't touch me!" to police.
“It’s been four years,” Sutton shouted as supporters escorted him from the room.
Nearly 10 minutes passed before the meeting was brought under control.
Family members of Bettie Jones, who was shot dead by police on the day after Christmas as they were responding to a report of an agitated man with a baseball bat, also attended the meeting. Police termed the Jones death as a "tragic accident."
“My momma didn’t deserve to die this way,” said Jones' daughter, LaToya Jones, who stood with several family members before the board. “She was doing her civic duty of helping the police and got mowed down like a dog. Too many people die because of the senseless conduct of your cops.”
Jones, 55, along with Quintonio LeGrier, 19, were both killed by police in the early morning hours of Dec. 26. LeGrier's father had called police after his son was banging on the father's bedroom door with a baseball bat. The father told the Sun-Times his son had been prescribed drugs for emotional problems.
Jones lived in the same building and was mistakenly shot as she stood in the doorway.
Both families have filed wrongful death suits.
LaToya Jones asked the board, as well as interim Police Superintendent John Escalante, what they were doing about officers “just shooting without asking questions.”
Jones said it has been a struggle for her family knowing that the officer who killed her mother is still on the payroll. Police announced after the shooting that the officers involved would be on 30-day administrative leave, which ends next week.
“We miss our mom,” she said. “She was our everything. Now she’s gone. We have to live with this pain. We lost our mom to gun violence. She didn’t die of a natural cause. She died at the hands of a trigger-happy cop.”
Geneva Reed-Veal said she understands both Sutton and the Jones family’s anguish. Her daughter, Naperville resident Sandra Bland, died in Texas police custody in a case that drew national attention.
Reed-Veal said her pain comes from the lack of answers surrounding her daughter’s death after a 2015 traffic stop. She wanted the police board to understand the pain expressed at Thursday’s meeting from people, who’ve lost loved ones at the hands of police, is not imaginary and never goes away.
“What you all see here this is pain,” Reed-Veal said. “It’s real and it’s deep and it goes farther than what anybody can explain to you because you go through so many things in your mind as you miss your relative.”
Her advice to the board and the next police superintendent is transparency.
“If you talk about keeping the peace in the community, peace in the neighborhood, you have to understand there can be no peace if we can’t get the information we need to find out what happened to our family members,” Reed Veal said.
Attorney Larry Rogers, who represents the Jones family, urged the board to select a police chief willing to punish rank-and-file officers who knowingly cover up police wrongdoing.
He said officers in the shooting incident in which Laquan McDonald was killed in October of 2014 fabricated statement that were contradicted by video tape should face criminal charges.
McDonald, 17, was killed by Officer Jason Van Dyke, who now faces first-degree murder charges. The release of dashcam video showing the shooting set off days of protests and led to the firing of Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
“The reason you see officers covering for one another is because there is no accountability for their actions,” Roger said. “Once that starts to happen, they will fear lying. They will fear covering things up and you will see a change.”
Two officers in the Laquan McDonald case have been put on desk duty, the Tribune reported Friday.
The police board began its search in December for McCarthy’s replacement and has reached out to members within the department for candidates as well as to national police organizations. The board will narrow down candidates to three and present the finalists to the mayor no later than February. Police Board Chair Lori Lightfoot noted they have received 39 applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.
“People are obviously passionate about issues relating to policing, and clearly one of the comments that was specific about the next police superintendent is that the person needs to have integrity which we agree with wholeheartedly,” Lightfoot said.
This report was published in collaboration with City Bureau, a Chicago-based journalism lab.
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