Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s rejection of the recommendations of the Civilian Office of Police Accountability demonstrates again that we cannot trust the police to police the police.
COPA ‘s investigators cannot prosecute, but they can and did recommend firing. Mr. Johnson could have respected the work and findings of COPA and he should have accepted their findings, allowing the process to proceed. Instead, the superintendent threw COPA under the bus. The tragedy is compounded.
Mr. Johnson’s decision furthers the cover-up of what happened on the morning of December 26, 2015 on Erie Street in the shooting deaths of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones by Officer Robert Rialmo. Mr. Johnson concluded that the facts suggested that Rialmo acted as any reasonable officer would have acted given the circumstances.
By any definition, a reasonable officer would not have recklessly and accidentally killed two people. The second officer at the scene did not fire a weapon, nor did he corroborate Rialmo’s testimony of immediate danger requiring deadly force. That fact alone disputes Johnson’s conclusion.
We also know that Officer Rialmo’s testimony has been inconsistent and incongruous with the physical evidence at the scene and is therefore not completely reliable. Rialmo’s lack of remorse, including suing the teen victim of his reckless conduct, suggests a shameless guilt and an unusual lack of common decency and respect for human life that should disqualify him for law enforcement employment.
Rialmo’s problematic temperament, shown in his subsequent bar fight episode, begs important questions. Did we do toxicology reports on Railmo as the shooter at the scene on Erie Street? Do we require psychological evaluations for police multiple shooters? Why was the medical examiner not immediately informed of a police shooting as dictated by protocols? Does police policy completely absolve accidental shooters that result in the deaths of the innocent?
Johnson’s complete absolution seems rushed, unreasonable, unthoughtful, lacking in compassion and courage, and calculating. Thoughtful and humane pursuit of justice does not hide behind “police policy” in a private letter. Truth is embraced in light.
Two people whose lives mattered are recklessly and accidentally dead, the facts of this case have not been completely established, and the police shooter’s physiological profile is problematic.
Superintendent Johnson has ruled that restoring full police powers to Rialmo is in accordance with police policy. Policy should never trump common sense or common decency.
Quintonio LeGrier was a teen whose formative years were spent as a ward of the state. Bettie Jones has children and grandchildren whose nightmare is ongoing and whose grief is deep and scarring. Life for Rialmo should not just simply go on with a host of unanswered questions. Restoring police powers to an unstable cop who has wantonly killed, presents a clear and present danger to the public. The process should protect the community as well as the police.
Apparently, the appeals of these families and our communities now must rest with Mayor Emmanuel’s handpicked Chicago Police Board. The political dynamics suggest that there is just a little hope for an aggressive, courageous pursuit of justice.
Because the Jones and LeGrier families are black and poor in Chicago, I must say that any measure of true justice for them in this process will be nothing short of a miracle. But we must continue to fight for those whose voices have been silenced. We cannot lose hope and we cannot give up the fight. Only justice for all can save the soul of the city.
Rev. Marshall Hatch, chairman,
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