Twenty two Chicago police officers are facing disciplinary action for faulty dashboard cameras (“dashcams”), and failure to use dashcams properly, in the wake of the fatal police shooting of 17 year old Laquan McDonald. The shooting, captured on camera as well as dashcam video, shows McDonald being shot 16 times, and resulted in Officer Jason Van Dyke being charged with first-degree murder, prompting a call to action, and transparency, for Chicago Police.
The crackdown and subsequent disciplinary action spawned out of an initiative from the interim Superintendent, John Escalante, warning the some 12,000 members of the police force that failure to ensure proper working of cameras, or failure to ensure that cameras were used during their shift, would result in disciplinary action. Over the past month, 22 officers and supervisors received punishment as a result of not heeding this warning, with discipline ranging from a simple reprimand to a three-day suspension.
The discipline initiative might be working. Now the department is reporting a 75 percent increase in videos uploaded at the end of each shift.
“We’re going to hold individuals accountable to ensure that the general orders are enforced…And we expect that when squad cars are patrolling the city that they have functioning audio and video capabilities” said a spokesman for the police department.
Thankfully, many police officers perform their difficult duties professionally and honorably every day. They deserve our respect, admiration and appreciation. Nevertheless, additional improvements in police force transparency and accountability are needed to get the bad actors that give the entire force a black eye and cause so much harm off the streets.
The dramatic increase in video uploads, dashcam use, and the crackdown on failures to adhere to dashcam policies are all steps in the right direction. But let’s at least give some of the credit for these improvements where it is most due. If Laquan McDonald’s family had not used the civil justice system effectively, we would have no improvements to report. The credit belongs to them, of course, but also to our forefathers for giving us the 7th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. These Amendments include three critically important legal rights that the family used effectively against powerful political forces: 1) the right to equal protection under the law; 2) to right to due process of law; and 3) the right to a right to trial by jury, even in civil cases.
If you hear someone argue we should do away with or limit the right to trial by jury in civil cases, please remind them this right is guaranteed by the 7th Amendment to the United States Constitution and it is critically important to protect the safety of all of us
David Rapoport is the founding and managing partner of Rapoport Law Offices. In his over 31 years as a full time trial attorney, he has won numerous multi-million dollar jury verdicts and settlements in personal injury and wrongful death cases. Mr. Rapoport is a member of the invitation only American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an association of premier trial attorneys who are dedicated to preserving the right to trial by jury. ABOTA's general mission is "to foster improvement in the ethical and technical standards of practice in the field of advocacy to the end that individual litigants may receive more effective representation and the general public be benefited by more efficient administration of justice consistent with time-tested and traditional principles of litigation." For over 20 years Martindale-Hubbell, through its Peer Review RatingsTM program, has consistently ranked David Rapoport as AV® PreeminentTM, its highest professional rating. This is a testament to Mr. Rapoport's abilities as an attorney and commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards. Mr. Rapoport has also been selected by Thompson Reuters, another prominent legal publisher, as an Illinois “Super Lawyer” every year since the inception of the Super Lawyer program. Super Lawyer designation is limited to the top 5 percent of lawyers in a state in any given year. Since 1990, David Rapoport has been board certified* in Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy ("NBTA"), the oldest and largest not-for-profit American Bar Association accredited trial attorney certification program. Attorneys with NBTA certification have proven ability in their field through specialized written examinations and meeting rigorous criteria for trial experience and ethical ratings. Mr. Rapoport has proven his currency and substantial trial experience through NBTA recertification in 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. David Rapoport has served as a leader of the movement to encourage board certification for trial lawyers for more than twenty years. Currently he is the President of the National Board of Trial Advocacy and its parent organization the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification. He recently explained: "In this era of Wild West style minimally regulated lawyer advertising, it has never been more important for the public to have easy and reliable means of identifying members of the small fraction of practicing attorneys who truly have substantial experience trying cases. Board certification programs help consumers of legal services make more informed choices. Too many lawyers are out there claiming to have substantial trial experience when in truth they have never tried a case. Board certified trial lawyers have proven their substantial trial experience in ways the public can trust." Mr. Rapoport is a member of the President's Club and Leader's Forum of the American Association for Justice and the state trial lawyer associations in Illinois, Wisconsin and Kentucky. He is also a member of the Economic Club of Chicago. * Board certification is not required to practice law in Illinois and the Illinois Supreme Court does not recognize specialties in the practice of law.