The Jason Van Dyke case showed the danger of being ruled by fear
Jason Van Dyke was guilty second degree murder today, but in an overwhelming number of cases in America if a cop shoots someone because they are angry they are considered a murderer, while if they shoot someone ‘one because he’s scared, he’s innocent.
We don’t really know what was going through Jason Van Dyke’s head when he shot LaQuan McDonald. It is possible that he was legitimately scared when he shot the teenager 16 times, as he and Laurence Miller, a Florida-based clinical psychologist, testified in the defense of the former cop.
But an officer can be frightened and still act unfairly. It is worth interrogating this fear and deciding whether it is sufficient to justify the murder, and if so whether it provides enough to found a justice system.
Chris Hayes’ 2017 book A colony within a nation does a masterful job of explaining how our country, once founded on principles of justice for all, now looks a lot like a police state.
He attributes much of the problem to a widespread sense of fear, particularly the racial fear of whites towards non-whites. “We are obsessed with order, fear trumps civil rights,” writes Hayes. Fear of waves of crime, terrorist attacks, turns into
Today, fear of what might happen if the Van Dyke verdict goes the other way, and the protesters – largely African-American – have taken to the streets in rage, has sparked all manner of overreaction in Chicago.
The Chicago Police Department has deployed 4000 additional agents downtown in anticipation of the unrest. Many of the city’s corporate offices either told their employees to stay home or told them to leave early as soon as a verdict was rendered. The city’s high schools have canceled sporting events. DePaul evacuated its entire Loop campus.
The entire Loop campus is evacuated, including DePaulia staff from our DePaul Center offices
We will still publish our new issue on Monday as planned.
– The DePaulia (@TheDePaulia) October 5, 2018
All this was deemed necessary although, as WBEZby Natalie Moore noted on Twitter, there has not been a full-fledged riot in Chicago for 50 years, and as many activists took to the streets after the 2015 video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald’s was released, the marches were extremely peaceful.
The Van Dyke case isn’t just a story about a man’s exaggerated fear of a 17-year-old who wielded a three-inch blade. This is the story of the strange contradiction at work in Chicago and across America: the safer we live, the more we fear losing it, and the more irrational we act.