A study analyzing police union’s statements immediately following a police-involved shooting shows that the Chicago police union has provided a false narrative in nearly half of its official statements since 2012.
As first reported by the Chicago Reader, 15 of the 35 statements given by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 Spokesman Pat Camden after shootings since 2012 have contained facts that were later proven false or deliberately misleading through sworn legal testimony, civilian/dash-cam footage, media/federal investigations, or even official police statements.
While it is certainly plausible that a select few cases could legitimately be presented with misinformation, the overwhelming number of false narratives significantly hurt police department’s standing with the communities they serve, particularly neighborhoods with majority black and brown populations.
“I cannot remember on any occasion when the Los Angeles police union made any kind of statement [about a police shooting],” Stephen Downing, former LAPD deputy chief, told the Reader. ‘[Camden’s] standing up there representing an official body; the public is listening to him represent the police organization, even though it’s the union. The police department and city should be objecting to that. If they’re not, then they’re complicit.”
As we have seen in many high profile shootings – particularly in cases involving unarmed persons of color – the prevailing narrative put out by Camden (along with most union reps nationally) is that the use of lethal force was necessary because they feared for their lives.
In many instances, this narrative is later proven to be dubious at best, most notably the infamous fatal shooting of LaQuan McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke. In the immediate aftermath in the fall of 2014, Camden originally told reporters that McDonald had “lunged” at Van Dyke with a knife in a “clear-cut case of self defense.” Dash-cam footage made available to the public a year later clearly shows McDonald walking away from the officers, presenting no imminent threat to anybody’s safety.