Justice

Chicago Police Union President Denies Officers Destroyed Dash Cam Footage, Blames Ferguson Effect

CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Dean Angelo Sr., Fraternal Order of Police president, addresses reporters.

In response to DNA Info’s damning report about officers in Chicago who intentionally damaged dashcam footage, the Fraternal Order of Police president is now denying that police were involved in a massive cover-up. He also invoked the now-infamous “Ferguson effect,” claiming that all the attention on police misconduct has discouraged officers from doing their jobs.

Following the release of Laquan McDonald’s shooting video, which had no audio because Officer Jason Van Dyke purposefully broke it, the Chicago Police Department revealed that 80 percent of its dashcam units cannot record audio. The department attributed those failures “to operator error or in some cases intentional destruction.” Soon afterwards, DNA Info scoured 1,800 police maintenance logs, and discovered that Chicago police routinely jeopardized dash cameras by tampering with microphones and batteries.

But union president Dean Angelo doesn’t believe the report’s findings, and says the latest information is further damaging the credibility of Chicago’s officers.

“How is it determined that this is something that someone purposefully engaged in damaging a piece of equipment?” Angelo asked. He also points fingers at the city’s leadership, for not fixing the equipment that has caused problems for years.

According to Angelo, the accusations this week are “just more kicks to the morale and kicks to the people that are out there working every day.” Other sources told DNAinfo that officers were doing the “bare minimum” because they were so demoralized by the public outrage.

“They’ve got nobody watching out for them. They’ve got nobody supporting them vocally Downtown,” Angelo said. “We’ve got a spike in crime and murders and shooting right now that we have not seen in decades and we are restricting proactive policing.”

Like Angelo, officers, politicians, and the media continue to blame spikes in crime on police disillusionment, a trend known as the Ferguson Effect. They argue that officers are downtrodden because of national criticisms of police for excessive force and a culture of corruption. But the Ferguson Effect has been debunked by advocacy groups, scholars, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who all say that data does not support the theory.

Cameras have been touted as a solution to the police accountability problem, by police departments and lawmakers nationwide. Several police forces across the country, however, have been caught tampering with or destroying dash cam. One police investigation found that Los Angeles police officers routinely sabotaged recording equipment in their own cars. And because dash cam recordings remains in the police department’s hands, they can be hidden or edited in secrecy. The dash cam video of Sandra Bland’s arrest, for example, appeared to have been edited before its public release.

Still, in response to the uproar over McDonald’s shooting, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) announced the department will be receiving more than 1,000 new body cameras to “enhance transparency.”