NORWOOD PARK — After what organizers said has been a "tough year" for police officers, the 13th annual Northwest Side St. Patrick's Day Parade set for March 13 will honor Chicago's police officers, veterans and firefighters, organizers said.
The decision to honor Chicago law enforcement officers was a "no-brainer" after white-hot criticism engulfed the Police Department in the wake of the release of a dashcam video showing a police officer fatally shoot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, said parade organizer Elizabeth Murray-Belcaster.
"This whole community has been hit hard," Murray-Belcaster said. "We really wanted to pay homage to them."
The grand marshal of the parade will be John Dineen, the founder and former president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents police officers.
Last December, current police union President Dean Angelo Sr. told the City Council that morale among officers is the lowest it has been in 35 years because of the uproar surrounding the McDonald shooting.
Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) — a former firefighter and police officer who hails from a family of law enforcement officers — said in a speech at the height of the controversy that the focus on one police officer's actions has been used to unfairly tar thousands of hardworking officers.
While Napolitano acknowledged that the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke apparently shooting McDonald without cause is horrifying, he said the actions of one officer should not be allowed to define the Police Department.
The parade will kick off as usual at noon at Onahan Elementary School, 6634 W. Raven St., and head south to Neola Avenue and then north on Northwest Hwy. to Harlem Avenue. The review stand will remain at the corner of Northwest Hwy. and Raven Street, organizers said.
All parade participants should check in along Northwest Hwy. between Nagle and Napoleon avenues.
Applications to march in the parade are available at northwestsideirish.org.
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