Reposted with permission from Chicago United. Bold added for emphasis.
As CEO of Chicago United, I join the local community in its deep disturbance and outrage around the police video depicting the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, released November 24. While much attention has been called to the misuse of force exhibited by numerous police officers nationwide, particularly toward young African-American males; other important failures of leadership, lack of transparency and unchecked bias in perception, required deeper exploration.
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) received 18 misconduct complaints against Van Dyke throughout his 14-year career; however, no disciplinary action was ever taken against the officer, according to a University of Chicago database. Eight complaints alleged excessive force, two involved the use of a firearm in addition to the McDonald shooting, and many complaints cited the policeman’s use of racial slurs. Local law enforcement’s inaction around multiple citizen complaints set the stage for difficult police community relations. The misrepresentations of what occurred on the night of the shooting and the withholding of the incriminating video evidence for more than a year – allowing Van Dyke to assume a desk position and remain on the city’s taxpayer-funded payroll – causes frustration and mistrust.
We know now that a district manager for the Burger King less than a block away from the shooting reported four to five police officers entered the restaurant shortly after the incident, without a warrant, and asked to view the fast food chain’s security surveillance footage. The crew members on duty obliged the officers’ request and gave them the password to access the equipment. The next day, an investigator from the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) also viewed the Burger King security footage and discovered 86 minutes of the video, from 9:13 p.m. to 10:39 p.m., was missing. Laquan McDonald was killed at approximately 9:50 p.m. The Cook County State’s Attorney addressed the missing footage stating, “Forensic testing was done on the Burger King surveillance system to determine if anyone tampered with the evidence and the testing did not reveal any such evidence.”
These factors, combined, continue to generate further distrust of Chicago’s law enforcement officers and city officials. Understanding these factors provide real life, real time, context to a recent CNN and Kaiser Family Foundation poll of 1,951 Americans across the country which revealed roughly half of the respondents (49%) say racism is “a big problem” in society today. It is important to note, of the respondents sharing this viewpoint, 66 percent were African-American, 64 percent Hispanic and 43 percent, White. Conversely, approximately 30 percent of White respondents reported racism in our society is either a small problem or a non-issue. The study exposes a misalignment related to perceptions of race and racism existing in predominately White communities compared to those of color.
Chicago United urges the local business community to view this incident, the community’s response, and CNN’s revealing poll data as an opportunity to reexamine its internal practices/policies in addressing employee concerns related to suspected workplace discrimination. Understandably, most minority employees are hesitant to pull the proverbial “race card” with their employer. Racial insensitivities or issues are often presented in race-neutral terms such as an uncomfortable or hostile working environment; exclusive and/or dismissive coworkers; or feeling disrespected or, worse, unseen by managers and senior leadership. When the gap in how minorities and Whites perceive racism, as revealed in the CNN poll, is considered, it can be understood how managers and human resources personnel might mistakenly dismiss racial discrimination claims made by minority professionals as unwarranted leaving issues undocumented. This inaction further disrupts a workplace that may be experiencing undisclosed racial tension.
As a community of business leaders stewarding the city’s top businesses and corporations, it is important to understand how human behavior and reactions are influenced by those in power. In the McDonald case, many members of the community are left feeling victimized, unheard, and, at times, dehumanized.
Two vital requirements of leadership can be learned from this heartbreaking and tragic chain of events. First, to obtain trust, it is essential to provide transparency in investigations of and responses to difficult situations. Second, it is imperative to exhibit true concern for the human condition. We can learn to take active steps toward a respectful, responsive, and inclusive business environment.
While not all racial discrimination allegations are valid, all should be considered and documented to identify any trends and help evaluate whether a divisive workplace is being bred covertly. As we all know, leadership and accountability starts at the top and trickles down an organization’s structure, ultimately impacting those with the least amount of power.
Please continue to keep Chicago and its entire community in your thoughts and prayers as we work to resolve these complex issues
President & CEO
The 1968 riots that followed the tragic death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. prompted top business leaders to discuss solutions to local economic instability and racial unrest thereby launching Chicago United.
For 40 years, Chicago United has maintained the dialogue among multiracial senior leadership driving corporate and minority-owned businesses, civic, and nonprofit leadership in the common goal of a creating a stronger social and economic climate for all races.
Original article can be found here.