Just hours after the city of Chicago stunned many onlookers by agreeing to release video of the fatal police shooting of a 17-year-old boy, the brother of another black Chicagoan shot and killed by police donned a familiar uniform of all-black clothing to attend a Chicago Police Board meeting, which he’s done every month for about half a year.
“I’m just asking that you fire him,” said Martinez Sutton Thursday night, clearly frustrated by police superintendent Garry McCarthy’s continued silence on punishment for Dante Servin, the Chicago police officer who killed his sister, Rekia Boyd, near Douglas Park in March 2012.
“I am tired of coming here . . . every month,” he said, pounding his fist once on the podium before imploring the standing-room-only crowd to raise their fists for a full minute in Boyd’s honor. In solidarity, the crowd, a multiethnic and multigenerational mix of supporters—some wearing yellow T-shirts embossed with “#SayHerName”—chanted “I am Rekia Boyd” for a full minute.
“It was my sister’s birthday this month,” Sutton said. “She would have been 26.”
The Independent Police Review Authority, the agency charged with investigating police misconduct and officer-involved shootings in Chicago, recommended Servin be fired in September, making him the second Chicago officer recommended for firing in an police-involved shooting since IPRA began in 2007. However, Superintendent McCarthy has yet to announce his decision on whether he accepts or rejects IPRA’s recommendation.
Critics of McCarthy’s deliberation, including Sutton and the City Council’s Black Caucus, have recommended the superintendent be fired as well.
By law, McCarthy has 90 days from September 16 to make a decision on Servin’s future as a Chicago police officer; his time runs out December 15. After protesters demanded a response again Thursday night, he responded that “it’s still being worked on.” The next public Chicago Police Board meeting is set for December 9.
Just hours earlier, another due date was set, this time by a judge who ordered the release of a video showing the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. The 17-year-old was shot dead by police officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014, in Archer Heights after McDonald allegedly refused to drop a four-inch knife. The judge set a deadline of November 25 to release the video, and despite initial reports that the city would appeal the decision, a statement released by Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that it would comply.
Advocates claimed victory in court’s decision, but the west-side teen’s family may not share the sentiment—McDonald’s mother reportedly doesn’t want the video released for fear the video of a Chicago police officer shooting her son 16 times could spark a wave of anger and violence that could tear the city apart. Others who have viewed the video have agreed that the brutal nature of the video (McDonald is reportedly shot mostly in his back even after he fell to the ground) would lead to protests and social upheaval.
So far the city has spent nearly $10 million in total settlements for both cases ($5 million for McDonald’s family, $4.5 million for Boyd’s), but justice for the two families took different paths to arrival Thursday. And with looming decisions coming to a head in both cases, a turning point for either could be announced any day.
“I fear how the video release is going to impact [Laquan’s] family. I’m much more concerned with people over property,” Charlene Carruthers of Black Youth Project 100 said Thursday. “What I expect the reaction to be with the video is that people will continue to organize, like we’ve been doing . . . around structural changes within the Chicago Police Department and the broader city of Chicago.”
That push for change has been especially evident in mass ongoing street protests and via social media through trending tags like #JusticeForRekia, #SayHerName, and #FireServinNow; all largely driven by Sutton, known on Twitter as @IAmRekiaBoyd.
Meanwhile, in the absence of a decision from McCarthy, Sutton and his supporters have begun to suspect ulterior motives behind the Police Department’s delay.
“I got a feeling that he is going to resign before you make [your] decision,” Sutton told McCarthy and the police board Thursday night. “That’s my feeling. He is going to resign and get off scot-free.”
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression activist Lacreshia Birts isn’t ruling that eventuality out—and resignation has precedent in Chicago: at least 57 officers resigned between 2011 and 2015 despite “sustained” investigations against them, according to newly released Citizens Police Data Project data.
“I think that is definitely a possibility that McCarthy is buying Dante Servin enough time to resign,” Birts said. “If he resigns, he may still find another job in another city, and that is unacceptable. He needs to still be fired. Even if he still resigns they still need to take away his pension.”
This report was published in collaboration with City Bureau, a Chicago-based journalism lab.