Marco Proano, the Chicago Police officer who fired 16 shots into a car full of unarmed teens, was found guilty of two federal civil rights violations -using unreasonable force and causing bodily injury. Though it is a small step of victory for supporters of criminal justice reform, it was not a clean victory nor was it without it’s shadows of impropriety.
A vehicle carrying 6 teens was pulled over at 95th and LaSalle by 2 other officers. Dash cam footage shows Proano arriving minutes later to the scene. Proano, upon exiting his vehicle, quickly withdrew his weapon (pointing it sideways into the teen’s stolen vehicle) and firing as the driver reverses away from him. The December 2013 shooting left two teens shot and another otherwise injured but no one was killed.
In the aftermath of the shooting, supporters of Proano claimed that it was a ‘split-second’ decision and that his actions were justified although I can’t imagine anyone watching the video believing that he felt there was an immediate danger. This incident didn’t fall through the cracks because the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) launched an investigation into the shooting. Initially, they barely investigated because, ironically, IPRA is just another cog in the rusty wheel of the criminal justice system.
IPRA was created in 2007 when complaints about how investigations against police officers were being conducted became unavoidable. Comprised of independent investigators, it replaced the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) which, was basically a group of police “investigating” police. IPRA was tasked to deliver unbiased and unfiltered investigations of complaints lodged against officers. It was not a secret, however, that OPS investigators simply moved over to IPRA. So much for transparency and accountability.
Ex-FBI Special Agent Larissa Camancho testified in court that in 2015 IPRA was contemplating clearing Proano in the shooting. After speaking with the investigator on the case, she went to the head of IPRA and told him she believed that the officer should be investigated. Not surprising because it’s been found that because IPRA has a less than 2% sustainability of complaints against officers, it was not as independent as the public was led to believe and moving forward, in September 2017, they will be replaced by a more rigorously independent agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA).
When black people say the criminal justice system is broken and skewed heavily away from the rights of blacks, it is not an understatement. We’ve seen proof of this when IPRA tried to clear officer Jason Van Dyke who, about a year after Proano’s crime, heinously shot and killed 17-year-old LaQuan McDonald. It wasn’t until that video was released that Van Dyke was charged with murder.
Marco Proano faces up to 20 years in prison for his crime. I will wait to see, with bated breath, how many years he’ll receive. In the meantime we will celebrate because today there is one less volatile officer on the street slaughtering black people with impunity. This conviction sends at the very least a whisper that the status quo is no longer going to fly.