CN Feb 24 2015

One Chicago police officer fired sixteen shots into Laquan McDonald. Another created a humiliating “hunting scene” photo, with an arrested man posed to look like prey— with deer antlers attached to his head, and eyes rolled back as if he were dead. A third officer emptied his service revolver into a car with unarmed teens.

Who defends these and other Chicago police officers when it’s time to go to court? The Chicago Reader’s Maya Dukmasova has profiled Dan Herbert, perhaps the busiest police defense lawyer in Chicago, and sh’e our guest on this week’s show.

Herbert tells Dukmasova he’s perplexed by the argument “that policing, as it currently exists, is institutionally or structurally racist.” He believes that African-Americans are disproportionately caught up in the criminal justice system not because of their race “but because they come from neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty and therefore higher crime rates.” Black people have suffered, he says, from harmful policies like the closing of local schools and the tearing down of public housing. Police, he argues, are “unfairly taken to task for bias against African-Americans when the real discrimination is perpetrated by politicians and policy makers at other levels of the state.”

Maya Dukmasova talks with us about her provocative and detailed profile of Dan Herbert which stems from FOIA’s, shadowing him at court and a series of philosophical conversations that extended over a period of several months.

“He’s kind of a jack of all trades when it comes to serving police officers legal issues,’ she explains. “so people come to his firm with divorce cases, with personal injury cases, but the thing that really gets the spotlight on him are these kind of visible egregious misconduct cases in which officers shoot someone, kill someone, abuse someone and he’s the criminal defense attorney.

A few selected quotes from this show:

Herbert on the Police Accountbility Task Force:

Lori Lightfoot was the chair of the Police Board and was also heading up the Police Accountability Task Force last April when the report was released, and one of the things that was out there, one of the conclusions was that there is institutional racism in the Police Department. And Dan himself says that ‘to me that meant that Lori Lightfoot called my dad a racist,’ and this is how a lot of other policers took it.

Dukmasova on one of the defense Herbert will use for Van Dyke:

Herbert claims that the Cook County State’s Attorney did not properly instruct the grand jury in how they are supposed to consider the charges against Van Dyke, because they rushed to try to get the indictment, and basically as, he put it in court, to  sacrifice Jason Van Dyke to the angry mob outside.

Dukmasova on the likelihood that the City, absent a consent decree from the Justice Department, will write its own form of a binding agreement for CPD reform.

I don’t know how much change we could really expect from an agreement in which the people that are supposed to change are supposed to monitor themselves and hold themselves accountable. I don’t think there’s a lot of faith in the City that all of this could be accomplished, a meaningful police reform could be accomplished without meaningful outside supervision. But, with that being said, there’s a great deal of reform-oriented grassroots activism in the City and a lot of people on that scene never had any faith in the federal government’s really helping any kind of serious reform efforts.

Dukmasova on whether more stringent laws regarding the illegal possession of firearms, which the Mayor and Police Superintendent have been advocating for years, would be effective:

No, not while there are this many guns on the streets, because there’s going to be an endless number of people who those guns are going to fall into an endless number of hands, and the people involved in these shootings especially now are very very young kids, are very young people who we don’t even necessarily hear about because they might wind up in the juvenile justice system after involvement in some sort of shooting. So I think that harsher punishment for gun offenses is not…that’s like not going to fix the root cause of this problem. This is a poverty issue first and foremost, and so the conversation has to start with what to do about improving life circumstances in these neighborhoods.

You can read a full transcript of this discussion here: cn-transcript-feb-24-2017

And you can listen to the show with your earbuds on SoundCloud HERE.

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About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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