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Chicago Police Union President John Catanzara called the killing of Adam Toledo by law enforcement “100 percent justified” and “heroic”.  The statement came shortly after body-cam footage showed a Chicago Police officer fatally shooting the 13-year-old.

The graphic video shows the officer chasing the seventh-grader down an alleyway.  The officer yells at Toledo to freeze, show his hands and drop his weapon.  As Toledo fully complies, the officer fires a single shot, hitting the boy in the chest. Toledo then slumps to the ground and can be seen struggling to breathe as blood covers his mouth.  The officer and his partner kneel down to render aid, but are unable to keep Toledo alive.

Some local officials tired of calling for peace

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot called the video “excrutiating”, saying that the city “failed Adam” while pleading for “peace”.

According to the Chicago Tribune, other local elected officials have rebutted calls for peace.

“You did not have to shoot that kid,” said Alderwoman Jeanette Taylor. “And then y’all got the nerve to ask us for peace. When do Black and brown people get peace? When do I get to wake up and not worry about if my sons are next, or my daughters?”

A disturbing pattern among police unions

The union president’s decision to describe the brutal killing of a boy as “heroic” is part of a larger trend. Over the past year, “unions,” or Fraternal Orders of Police (FOPs), have been quick to place blame on Black or brown victims of police brutality.

In 2017, the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police publicly backed officer Betty Shelby while on trial for manslaughter after she shot and killed unarmed father Terence Crutcher.  On the night she was acquitted, video surfaced showing FOP leadership buying champagne for Shelby at a posh rooftop bar.

In May of last year, Minnesota FOP President Bob Kroll issued a statement seeking to justify the murder of George Floyd.

“What is not being told is the violent criminal history of George Floyd,” wrote Kroll, “The media will not air this.”

In 2015, Cleveland Officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir Rice to death because Rice had a toy gun on a playground. Former union president Steve Loomis drew condemnation when he called 12-year-old Tamir Rice “menacing“. Loomis said Rice was “in the wrong” and that his death was justified.

Police unions impede progress

Last Sunday, former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who was once a police union president herself, shot Daunte Wright to death during a traffic stop. Officer Potter was later arrested and is facing second degree manslaughter charges.

Nationwide, police unions often have significant influence over elected officials and contract negotiations.  This influence has continued to make it difficult for reform efforts to be successful.

The death of Adam Toledo has sparked outrage across the country. It’s unclear whether charges will be filed in the boy’s death.

Nate Morris moved to the Tulsa area in 2012 and has committed himself to helping build a more equitable and just future for everyone who calls the city home. As a teacher, advocate, community organizer...