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While we certainly lament the rising murder toll in our communities (see our cover story, page 3), we are also quite concerned about another toll that seems to be escalating. Yet another Black Chicago resident was shot and killed by police officers last w

While we certainly lament the rising murder toll in our communities (see our cover story, page 3), we are also quite concerned about another toll that seems to be escalating.

Yet another Black Chicago resident was shot and killed by police officers last week, following another fatal altercation between police in Waukegan and a young Black man during a domestic call.

In Chicago, police report that a young man on a bicycle opened fire on them, and they returned fire and killed him. In Waukegan, the assailant reportedly attacked an officer with a hammer, and another officer shot him dead.

Two months ago we reported on the escalation of police-involved shootings, a rise that was recognized around the country. We had hoped that those incidents would lessen, but the reality is that it probably won’t happen.

Rising crime statistics have put the Chicago police on the alert, and they are exhibiting extra concern. We also do not discount the fact that Chicago police brass were embarrassed by fatal incidents at the Taste of Chicago this summer. And their massive presence at this year’s Bud Billiken Parade seemed to put as much of a damper on the festivities as the rain.

We always are cautious when we hear of police departments talking about adding automatic assault weapons to their arsenals–to counter criminals with similar arms. We recognize that kind of arms race only puts our citizens at risk. We also recognize that a mindset that sends officers out looking for trouble everywhere in the Black community will usually find it–with tragic consequences.

The Black community is already victimized by the crime that seems to be spreading. When crime and violence rages in a community, it affects lifestyle, employment, transportation and even shopping. But the heightened attention by law enforcement is also fomenting dangerous altercations, and unfortunately, they are too often resulting in the deaths of Black citizens.

Certainly our police officers are to be given the benefit of the doubt. They are protecting and serving our community, putting their lives on the line every time they deploy and they, too, can be victims of crime.

But police-involved shootings of Black residents does more to exacerbate a rift between the Black community and the police than anything else. If Blacks feel that almost any altercation with a police officer–armed with a hammer, a flashlight or a cell phone–can be fatal, then they will not trust any officer. If even law-abiding Blacks feel that police are more likely to shoot them first, and ask questions later, they won’t cooperate with the police, and crime will continue.

We will be watching the Independent Police Review Authority to see that the Chicago incident is thoroughly investigated.

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Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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