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Verdict in Laquan McDonald Case Affirms the Time is Now for Police to Change How it Interacts with Black Communities

October 10, 2018

Contact: Alissa Rivera
(P) 312.368.5231

Verdict in Laquan McDonald Case Affirms the Time is Now for Police to Change How it Interacts with Black Communities

CHICAGO—The city of Chicago has experienced decades of segregation and inequality across communities. And for nearly four years, those deepest wounds have been exposed with the murder of Laquan McDonald, a Black teenager killed by a police officer who fired 16 shots without provocation. His murder, and the ensuing coverup by fellow police officers and city and state officials, demonstrated the systemic racial injustice found in this city and across the country.

The murder of Laquan was heart wrenching. We at the Shriver Center hope that last Friday’s conviction of Officer Jason Van Dyke for second-degree murder and aggravated battery brought Laquan’s family and the communities so frequently under siege from police abuse and misconduct some solace.

Although some may see closure in this case, much remains unanswered: Why do we see this kind of force exercised at higher rates against Black people? Why are the police able to take other people—armed or not—into custody alive? What does it say about the training that police officers receive, that the mere sight of a Black person can arouse fear and suspicion in even the most seasoned officers?

The answers to these questions, in and of themselves, speak volumes about the systemic problems within police departments across the nation. While it is necessary to hold individual officers accountable, it has become far too easy to shift the blame entirely to them. Equally responsible are the police departments that train, or fail, to train them; the departments that fail to address the entrenched biases locked deep within their organizations.

It is time for cities and townships across the United States to implement critical strategies and policies that meaningfully change the way that police departments and local officials interact with Black communities. In Chicago, the proposed consent decree and other reforms since Laquan’s murder are moving the city toward having an accountable and respectful police force but the hard and necessary work must continue and in ways that keeps communities engaged in the progress. The Shriver Center will continue to stand with communities of color and fight back against systemic injustices that continue to plague them.


The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law provides national leadership in advancing laws and policies that secure justice to improve the lives and opportunities of people living in poverty. We specialize in practical solutions. We advocate for and serve clients directly, while also building the capacity of the nation’s legal aid providers to advance justice and opportunity for their clients.

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