Will Chicago’s “disappeared” have justice?

“Behold, I cry, ‘Violence!’ but I get no answer; I shout for help, but there is no justice. Job 19:7

The Chicago Police Department, in its war on crime, has declared some murders as non-criminal deaths. They have done this, according to Chicago Magazine, because of political pressure to have lower crime rates, in particular, lower murder rates.[1] The city benefits from its improved reputation and the murder victim’s family mourns. Every murder victim has a name; they are more than a statistic. In this case, Tiara Groves is one of the victims. She had a family and they want justice for their loved ones. Yet, like victims of other wars, their loved ones have become Chicago’s disappeared. No one will investigate the murders. No one will be brought to justice.

A city’s highest duty is justice, without justice it is a gang.

The highest duty a city has to its citizens is justice. A city demonstrates this commitment because murder is a crime without a statute of limitation. As a crime against man, nature and nature’s God, it only closes when the murderer is brought to justice in whatever form that takes. Without justice, the community cannot heal and the city becomes infected by the injustice. Where injustice stalks the streets, natural justice takes up residence. Natural justice means the strong do as they will and the weak do as they must. In such a community, violence, vengeance and retribution are a daily occurrence. However, the city’s political decay is not the result of violence. The violence is the result of the city’s political decay. The injustice of hiding murders is no different from a gangster’s injustice. When natural justice emerges, a natural political inequality follows. In communities where political justice is not available, life becomes poor, nasty, and brutal as gangsters thrive. Might makes right as the powerful rule the weaker in a brutal and extreme form of political inequality.

Is equality before the law a fading memory in the land of Lincoln?

The victims were murdered. In their death, they suffered the added insult that they were disappeared. In both they were denied the equal protection of the law. Yet, the statistical crime is only a symptom of political corruption that infects the city. The corruption makes public officials complicit out of institutional or personal necessity. Even though a veneer of prosperity and rectitude on public display may hide the moral decay, the violence in the street and the dishonesty in the city’s government reveal the injustice in the city’s soul. The vulnerable and the weak are sacrificed so the powerful and the protected can reap the financial and political benefits of a “safer” Chicago’s reputation. A deep inequality within the city suggests that the belief that all men are created equal is limited by a city’s political necessity.

When public officials become complicit, who escapes the corruption?

The senior officers who direct this statistical sleight of hand create a culture that corrupts others such as the junior officers and related public officials. In a healthy political culture, the law directs the organisation, and the organisation directs the senior officials. Yet, the average police officer and public official know that in the changed statistics, the law is twisted to serve the organisation and the organisation serves the senior officers who can reap the political benefit from a lower number of murders. When officers betray their oath[2] and change statistics for political or organisational purposes they become like gangsters. Those who make that decision know the injustice of their acts, but they remain silent because it profits them.[3] Honest officers and public officials will see that those who follow the senior officer’s lead are protected and promoted. If they want to remain in public service, they must become the willing participants in an institutional abuse of the vulnerable and weak.[4] A cynic might justify this by a claim that the officers act for the greater good. The public are better served by a city that appears safe and open for business. Yet a question remains unanswered.

Who speaks for the Victim?

When the city decides that a murder victim is not a murder victim, who speaks for victim? They cry out for justice, but who will step forward and march for their civil rights? They are voiceless. They are victims of the city’s injustice because they lack the power or connections to demand justice. They cannot command equality because the city denies it to them. The city’s powerful, privileged, and protected can demand justice shield them from such a fate. Yet, a city unable or unwilling to deliver justice can protect no one.

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is in an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob, and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.—Fredrick Douglass

Justice is possible but only with courage.

Chicago is not beyond reform. Chicagoans need to denounce those who betray justice and have the courage to reject the profits of injustice. Political reform is needed to connect political justice to the common good and break the cycle of violence. If there is no reform, there will be no justice. If there is no justice, there will be no peace. The violence will continue because the city is not just. No statistical sleight of hand will change that fact. The rule of law must run from the street to City Hall with neither being a refuge for “natural justice.” Our choice is between two cities: the corrupt city or the just city. The corrupt city sees the powerful protected and the weak voiceless and forgotten. This is the path to ruin no matter how well the statistics look. Until justice is restored to the city’s soul, it will remain polluted. No amount of positive media coverage or prosperity will hide the fact that Chicagoans have lived with genteel gangster justice for too long. It is time to wash the city clean and choose the just city. In the just city, the rule of law lives in all communities. Such a city does not tolerate the radical poverty, inequality, and violence in its midst. It faces its problems with honesty, courage and fortitude and not does not shirk from them or hide them with statistical sleight of hand, nor distract the public with media messages that burnish the city’s reputation. Moreover, a just city has the integrity to look within itself and see that it cannot deal with the injustice on the streets without removing the injustice within its government.

The time has come for a choice: What will Chicago choose?

Chicago has a choice. It can remain silent and wait for injustice to find the next victim or it can speak up for the disappeared. The city’s leadership may believe such a judgement may be deferred, delayed or distracted. However, they cannot dispel the injustice in the city’s soul nor drown out the voice of the victims. Their blood cries out for justice

9Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. 11“Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand….

Will you listen to the voice of the victim crying for justice?

If you have the courage, you can deliver justice for Chicago’s disappeared.  Will you act?

Will you speak for Tiara Groves?

[1] Although the police have condemned the report because it relies on anonymous sources, it has not denied that the practice occurs or that the victims mentioned in the article have not been reclassified.

[2] Here is the Chicago Police Officer’s oath of office. “I . . .{name} . . . having been appointed to the office of Police Officer, City of Chicago, do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Illinois and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Police Officer, according to the best of my abilities.”

[3] The crimes became known when the magazine investigated. No city officials or police officers came forward publicly. They have remained silent, which reveals the culture. They are unable or unwilling to speak up yet, willing to benefit from a system and practice they know to be wrong.

[4] If Emmett Till were murdered in Chicago today, would it be a noncriminal death?When Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi, the city had the “decency” to investigate the crime, charge someone with it, and hold a trial. Does Chicago now lack such decency?

About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
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