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Chicago Urban League President and CEO Issues Statement on Shooting Death of Dexter Reed

The Chicago Urban League has long been an advocate for equity, fairness, and for transparency in situations that raise questions of social justice. The release of the video surrounding the stop and subsequent death of Dexter Reed and the injury of a Chicago police is one of those occasions.  Like so many citizens, I was deeply disturbed by what was depicted in the video from the body cameras.  Multiple views of the footage and documentation left me with more questions than answers.  As COPA completes its investigation of this case and considers the role of tactical units in public safety and as the Chicago Police Department reviews its internal policies and practices, we echo the community’s call for answers.

First, it is important to state that our questions about police conduct in this case do not negate our deep regret and sincere concern that a police officer was injured during the stop of Reed.  Our concerns are that the seemingly pretextual reason of a seatbelt violation coupled with the overly aggressive approach to the vehicle AND the absence of ANY deescalation efforts underscore the need for further investigation of the circumstances surrounding the initial stop and the course of events.  It also underscores the imperative of a new approach to policing in this community as outlined by the Chicago Police Department consent decree and the Obama Administration’s Report on 21st Century Policing.

Once weapons were discharged, it is important to ask whether the force used against Dexter Reed was reasonable given the number of officers present and the number of times their weapons were discharged.  This inquiry must be made from beginning to end because Reed moved from the car to the ground during the course of events.  One must inquire whether there was an expectation that CPR would be administered to Reed as soon as it was determined that he did not have a weapon in his hands.    Is it reasonable to handcuff a person who was unarmed, disabled and bleeding out?  Given the number of rounds fired by the police officers on the scene, will ballistics confirm that Reed injured the officer?

We are in a day and age where there is a clear disdain for law enforcement.  This is evident in every case from the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol to the frequency with which Chicago police officers face life-threatening circumstances.  This is regrettable, and driven by  decades of over-policing, excessive use of force and behavior that has its origin in the slave patrols.  But the absence of respect should not encourage police officers to create an environment of hostility, anger and disregard for human life.  Does the Reed case demonstrate the uniform standard for approaching citizens during traffic stops?

It is easy to talk about problems, but we must identify solutions.  In the near term, we will get final reports from COPA and other agencies. We will learn how many times Dexter Reed fired his weapon and get ballistics reports on the bullet that hit the police officer.  But in the longer term, we must create a culture of policing that maintains safety for both police officers and the citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.  We must also create meaningful opportunities for young people to hone their gifts and talents.  This is the ultimate goal of the consent decree and citizens who desire to be constitutionally policed.  As a party organization to the consent decree, the Chicago Urban League is committed to working with the community, Mayor Brandon Johnson and Superintendent Larry Snelling to expeditiously achieve both ends.

Karen Freeman-Wilson is President & CEO of the Chicago Urban League. She has previously served as a Deputy Prosecutor, municipal judge, and as Indiana Attorney General. She is also a board member of the National Policing Institute.