A 17-year Chicago police veteran who endured a violent beating at an accident scene didn’t use her gun to defend herself because she feared backlash from the community in the wake of so many police-related shootings, Chicago’s top cop said Thursday.
According to Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the patrol officer, “didn’t want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news.”
The Chicago Tribune reports that the officer stopped at a crash scene on the West Side in the morning hours of Oct. 5 when she got into a struggle with a man who was allegedly high on PCP. The erratic suspect smashed her face into the pavement over and over again until she was unconscious, police reported.
“This officer could (have) lost her life last night,” Johnson said while attending a public ceremony honoring heroic officers and firefighters. “She’s hospitalized right now, but she still has the spirit and the bravery that these officers and firefighters display every day — every day. We have to change the narrative of the law enforcement across this country.”
Police “don’t want to become the next YouTube video,” said Dean Angelo, head of the Chicago Police Department’s largest union said Thursday. “If you participate in a deadly force situation you can save your life, but in 2016, you can lose your job,” he said.
This fear, the Washington Post writes, has come to be known as the Ferguson effect, named after the St. Louis suburb that became the center of police brutality protests following the shooting of an unarmed black teenager in 2014.
The shooting set off protests and riots that summer and eventually gave way to a fevered national debate over race and policing. Many law enforcement officers have said that the intense focus on policing in the time since has put them on the defensive and hindered their work.
Criminologists are generally skeptical of the Ferguson effect, many arguing that there simply isn’t enough evidence to definitively link spikes in crime to police acting with increased restraint. President Obama and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch have also said not enough data exists to draw a clear connection.
The Chicago Police Department has steadily been losing its community’s trust for decades, as continued civil rights abuses have eroded any connection between the police and minorities. As the police-related shooting incidents continued to pile up, the U.S. Department of Justice eventually launched a historic probe of the department in 2015 following the release of video footage showing police shooting a teenager walking away from them with a knife. But experts say it could take years for meaningful reform to take place.
Charges have not yet been filed against the man responsible for landing the Chicago police officer in the hospital.