A police officer who is hospitalized after she was severely beaten said she was afraid to use her gun because of the scrutiny she would have faced.
On a Wednesday morning, police responded to a car crash at Roosevelt and Cicero on the city’s West Side where officers encountered a man that police allege was violent and under the influence of drugs.
The suspect smashed the officer’s face into the pavement repeatedly until she was unconscious, police said.
Three officers were hospitalized in the incident. One officer who was severely beaten told Johnson she was afraid for her life and afraid to use lethal force with all of the attention on the police department’s previous actions and fatal incidents.
A nearby business captured surveillance video of the incident. The owner didn’t see the incident firsthand, but saw how the incident unfolded on the surveillance video.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the patrol officer told him she did not use her gun to defend herself for fear of a backlash. “She didn’t want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news,” he said.
“She thought she was going to die. She knew that she should shoot this guy, but she chose not to because she didn’t want her family or the department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news,” Johnson said.
The U.S. Justice Department launched a probe of the department after video was released of police shooting a teenager walking away from them with a knife, with complaints about the department’s treatment of citizens going back years.
The head of the Chicago Police Department’s largest union said Thursday that Johnson’s comments echo what he’s been saying for months. Police “don’t want to become the next YouTube video,” said Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. “If you participate in a deadly force situation you can save your life, but in 2016, you can lose your job,” he said.
Civil rights activists, however, have argued that police already lost community trust after decades of abuse.
“It is terrible. It is total disregard for law enforcement. They put their lives forward every day for us and to see somebody do this, to pummel the police officer is terrible. It is a terrible thing,” business owner Louie Rainone said.
“Any fair-minded person acknowledges that police have a very difficult and dangerous job, and this sounds like a very unfortunate situation,” Jon Loevy, a civil rights lawyer, said. “The hope is that the department and the community can work to repair some of the lost trust so that officers won’t always feel so second-guessed.”
“This officer could (have) lost her life last night,” the superintendent said. “She’s hospitalized right now, but she still has the spirit and the bravery that these officers and firefighters display every day — every day. We have to change the narrative of the law enforcement across this country.”