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If you want to understand why, unfortunately, there is such a grave distrust in certain communities for police officers, two recent incidents in northern Illinois are eye-openers. At issue is the politically charged response of police unions to two controversial shootings.

The Chicago Police Board last week fired four police officers for allegedly covering up the tragic 2014 shooting by a white officer of black teenager Laquan McDonald. The nine-member board unanimously determined that the officers exaggerated the threat posed by the 17-year-old McDonald to justify his shooting by Officer Jason Van Dyke. The board voted to dismiss a police sergeant and three officers.

The decision appeared to have been based on the much-reviewed police dashboard camera video of McDonald’s death — he was shot 16 times while under the influence of drugs, walking unsteadily and carrying a knife — that contradicted the officers’ outrageous reports about the incident.

So what was the reaction of the police union to the dismissals?

“It is obvious that this police board has out-served its usefulness,” said Patrick Murray, first vice president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. He said the police officers did nothing wrong.

Farther west, members of a police union in Elgin paid for a billboard to defend an officer who is on administrative leave for the controversial fatal shooting in March 2018 of a woman who a consultant found was suffering a “serious mental episode.”

“The Members of the Police Benevolent & Protective Association Unit #54 proudly support Lt. Chris Jensen *274,” says the billboard just outside of downtown Elgin.

A 34-year-old Elgin woman, Decynthia Clements, was in a standoff with police on Interstate 90 when she got out of her SUV, which she had set afire, and lunged at officers with two knives. Officer Jensen’s decision to shoot Clements was found to be justified by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office and did not violate police department policy in regards to use of force, said Hillard Heintze, a Chicago firm hired by Elgin to review the episode.

But the firm cited Elgin officers for either not having their body cameras turned on during the standoff or for intermittently turning them off, in violation of a draft department policy. Further, it cited Jensen for violating the department’s policy on dealing with people having a mental-health crisis and for failing to follow protocol when no medical assistance was given her after the shooting.

That the police union feels compelled to “proudly support” an officer who shot a woman during a mental-health crisis and not to offer aid after the shooting is sure to heighten tensions in Elgin and do nothing positive for police-community relations.

News-Gazette