West Side elected officials react to Ferguson

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West Side officials reacted with dismay to last night’s announcement that a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) said the Ferguson case has damaged the trust between law enforcement and African-American communities across the country.

“We cannot ignore repeated calls for help from the police and the community to provide the resources needed to develop better relations between law enforcement and the communities they are pledged to serve and protect,” Ford said in a statement.

“The Ferguson situation teaches us that we must both invest in building police forces with police that are sensitive to the communities they serve and officers that police with care and restraint.”

U.S. Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-Chicago) said he’s “deeply dismayed” by Monday’s announcement, which led to riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and protests across the country, including one in Chicago that shut down parts of Lake Shore Drive.

“Based on my interaction with constituents, I expect that many thousands of others share that response and will express their concerns in peaceful public protests,” Davis said in a statement.

“I call upon law enforcement in Missouri, and all across our nation, to show all possible restraint and sensitivity and allow the American people to exercise their First Amendment right and responsibility in expressing their opinions over this event and similar recent events.”

Davis said Brown’s killing mirror a “horrifying string” of similar deaths and shootings of African-American men by police nationwide that seem to have escalated in recent weeks:

  • Eric Garner (43) in Staten Island, New York — July 17
  • John Crawford (22) in Beavercreek, Ohio – Aug. 5
  • Ezell Ford (25) in Los Angeles, California – Aug. 11
  • Dante Parker in Victorville, California – Aug. 12
  • Levar Jones (35) in Columbia, South Carolina – Sept. 4
  • Tamir E. Rice (12) in Cleveland, Ohio – Nov. 23

Citing a Chicago Tribune story, Davis said Chicago police shot 36 people last year, 26 of them African-American males, and officers have shot 34 people so far this year.

“The circumstances surrounding many of those shootings remain unclear or unknown,” the congressman said. “The emerging pattern of these events raise significant, troubling questions about the protection of the civil rights of Americans, especially young African-American males, in encounters with law enforcement.”

“There remain great inequities in the functioning of our criminal justice system, inequities which are also still found in housing, finance, employment and electoral politics.”

Davis said the question before us now is: “how best to protect our youth, how to end violence, including police violence in our community? Times like this bring to the surface powerful emotions and the temptation to lose
faith in our still too often imperfect democratic process. “

“Now is a time to make our laws and law enforcement work for our community, not against our community. Now is the time for us to redouble our determination to reform and strengthen our system of laws and law enforcement, not to abandon it for a brief moment of street rage.

Rep. Ford said this is a “wake-up call that America must invest in the best technology to protect both law enforcement and civilians” and to truly invest in community policing.

“Now is the time to do more than talk. In order to move forward and to one day have better policing in every community, we must invest in better training, the latest equipment and more African Americans on police forces. With limited local and state budgets across the country, the federal government must provide support to improve and promote community policing.”

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