Matthew Plowman, J.D.
General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer
Chicago is my kind of town – the bright lights, the tall buildings, Wrigley Field, the lakefront. But, objectively speaking, it is actually a mess. 664 murders within the city limits in 2017 (down from over 800 in 2016 - so progress?) and over 3,500 people shot (over 10 per day). Police in Chicago have an unenviable job trying to keep order. There were seven Officer Involved Shootings in the city last year which is actually fairly amazing considering the obviously armed and lawless citizenry officers are up against.
Resolution has come in one of the most tragic OIS in Chicago which took place four years ago, on October 20, 2014, when Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot Laquan McDonald while he was walking on the street with a knife. Dash camera video released seemed to show McDonald walking away from the police at the time of the shooting. Earlier this month, Van Dyke was found guilty by a Cook County jury of second degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. Sentencing has yet to take place, but Van Dyke could potentially face up to 60 years in prison for the convictions.
Van Dyke’s defense team asserted the defense to the dash camera video that it “did not tell the whole story” and that the video showed a perspective that was “the wrong perspective.” Indeed.
Dashcam video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald
Our position that the Weapon Mounted Camera (WMC) can help determine “what really happened” is not just a clever marketing tagline. It has real life implications. Had Officer Van Dyke been in use of a WMC, we would not necessarily have the “whole story” but we would have the most critical piece of evidence to ensure justice was served in this matter. That evidence is the view from the end of the Officer’s firearm and the actions of LaQuan McDonald during the moments surrounding when the shot was fired. We will never know how this would have impacted liability, but at least the doubt of both sides would be mitigated.
In the meantime, in the shadow of this tragedy, the U.S. Department of Justice began a civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department, releasing a report in January 2017 describing the department with a culture of excessive violence along with poor training and supervision. In response, the Department, the City of Chicago, and the Illinois Attorney General finalized a Consent Decree in September in response to the DOJ investigation and its subsequent recommendations for reform. Among the agreed provisions of the highly contested and publicized Consent Decree is that the Chicago PD must record each and every incident in which the officer’s gun is drawn.
It is hard to question that the Viridian FACT Duty WMC is not only a valuable, but frankly, a necessary tool for the department’s compliance with the Consent Decree. It records when the gun is drawn and would give the Department an automatic record that it is required to keep, along with mitigating the tragic uncertainty of “what really happened” in incidents like the Laquan McDonald shooting.
Yes… of course Viridian has been reaching out aggressively to Chicago officials to make sure they are at least aware of our solution. At this point, we have received no response whatsoever. If anyone out there reading this knows anyone of influence associated with the City of Chicago or Chicago PD, please let us know. We would really like to talk with them about the Viridian WMC.