Chicago’s Independent Police Authority posted video of a man’s encounter with Chicago Police, dramatically illustrating a traffic stop which escalated in seconds to a violent struggle with the arresting officers.
The incident in question happened Nov. 21, 2016, when 20-year-old Corey Williams was pulled over for failure to signal, and what officers said was a broken light on the license plate of his car.
“Oh my God, are you serious?” Williams asks the officers, who at first ask him to roll down his window, then have him get out of the car.
“Get your hands up,” they are heard instructing him on one officer’s body camera. “Stop moving dude,” one officer orders.
Seconds later, Williams is being wrestled to the ground.
“Are you serious?” he screams as officers struggle to put handcuffs behind his back. “They just threw me out of the car for no reason!”
The officers said in arresting documents that Williams refused their requests to produce his license and registration and was uncooperative after stepping out of his car.
“(Arresting officers) performed an emergency takedown followed by emergency handcuffing,” the report stated. “Arrestee placed into custody, due to the actions, smell of cannabis, and irate behavior of the arrestee.”
While the report stated a “green leaf-like substance” was recovered, no drug charges were filed.
Lori Lightfoot, who finished her term Monday as president of the Chicago Police Board, suggested the incident was an example of the kind of report she knows all too well.
“What I think that a lot of people watching would have great concerns about, is why was it necessary to pull this man out of his car and put him on the ground in handcuffs,” Lightfoot said. “It was a traffic stop!”
Lightfoot, who chaired an independent commission on police accountability, stopped short of commenting on the incident, which is still under investigation by the Independent Police Review Authority. But she said it seemed to echo incidents her group heard about time and time again.
“What we heard over and over, was the fact that they felt so dehumanized, in their encounters with the police,” she said. “When people have those kinds of experiences, and you multiply them by the tens of thousands of stops that were routine on the south and west sides…unless those young people have a counterbalancing positive experience with police, that’s what they’re going to think about the police.”
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told NBC 5 he has seen a rapid change in the culture of his department.
“We treat every individual responsibly, until they give us a reason not to, so that will be reviewed,” he said. “And if it’s found we need to be held accountable, then we’ll be held accountable.”
Johnson said he believes he has seen change in his department’s culture, since taking the reins 18 months ago.
“You know, this thing didn’t get messed up overnight, and it won’t get fixed overnight,” he said. “This is decades of doing things inappropriately, in some circumstances, so that doesn’t change overnight!”
Last January, the U.S. Department of Justice ended a lengthy review of police procedures in Chicago, calling for CPD to sign a court-enforceable consent decree with the federal government. But with the change of administrations came a change of attitude about police reform, with the new Attorney General making clear he was no fan of such efforts to ensure police accountability.
Lightfoot said whatever form it takes, a documentable set of reforms need to be codified, and enforced.
“We’ve got to change and go in a different direction,” she said. “And it’s got to be more than lip service. It’s got to be real, it’s got to be meaningful, and it has to be now.”
She said she thought Johnson genuinely understood and was on board with what needed to be done, to foster what she calls a “constitutional relationship” between police and the larger community.
“Until the officer on the beat, every one of them, understands and respects that relationship, and values it as much as he values his gun and his badge, we have work to do.”