Police union's hiring of Jason Van Dyke as janitor sparks anger

Friday, April 1, 2016
Police union's hiring of Jason Van Dyke sparks anger
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Many people are outraged by a new position given to suspended Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many people are outraged by a new position given to suspended Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is charged in the 2014 murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Protesters gathered Thursday outside the Fraternal Order of Police headquarters, where Van Dyke is now employed as a janitor. He's described as a jack-of-all-trades, doing whatever work needs to be done.

The white police officer was charged with first-degree murder in November 2015, shortly before the release of dashcam video showing him shooting the black teen 16 times. The video's release prompted protests across the city, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Chicago Police Department, calls for the resignation of former CPD Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Van Dyke was stripped of his police powers and is on unpaid status. Now working for the FOP, he makes $12 an hour at the union hall in the West Loop.

FOP President Dean Angelo issued a statement, saying: "Weeks ago, the FOP reached a decision to assist the Van Dyke family. Due to the notoriety of the incident, the ongoing threats of harm and intimidation and other issues caused him to become completely unemployable. Furthermore, after several threats against the safety of his spouse and her clients his wife was forced to shut down her family-run business; resulting in zero household income."

The statement continued to say the FOP has a long history of finding work for members and concluded, "This is not a precedent setting employment issue."

But many in the community feel the union's decision is reopening old wounds and creating new problems.

"While we're working very hard as a city to repair the relationship between the police and the community, what do they think this was going to do?" said Jedidiah Brown of the Young Leaders Alliance.

"We're trying to get teenagers jobs to help prevent violence, but in this situation we have a man that killed a teenager who's been given a job and is gainfully employed," said Pastor Greg Livingston of Coalition for a New Chicago.

"I'm outraged and angry. It's a disgrace. I mean, here we are. It's just a slap in the face and an insult to the community, to the city and I think, to the Chicago Police Department," said Father Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina Church.

"Today we're here to say: listen FOP, this is not the right message that you should be sending to Chicago residents," said activist Ja'mal Green.

"When they go home and they take that uniform off, they're regular citizens. They're human beings. They're just like me, they breathe like me, they talk like me, they bleed like me, but they don't get the same judicial process as me, and that where it has to change," said activist Jared Steverson.

"I'm not saying that Mr. Van Dyke is guilty, I'm not saying that he's innocent. But what the bottom line is that I don't think this is something that the union should have done," said former Chicago Police Detective Cornelius Longstreet.

There are also those who suggest patiene with the process, and one man who supports Van Dyke.

"He has not been convicted of first degree murder, the trial is still going on, and he has the right to make a living," said supporter Gary Snow.

"He's only a janitor helping out in the Fraternal Order of Police. He's not a spokesperson on police affairs, he's not an active police officer," said Michael Brown, a professor of criminal justice.

The CPD said it played no role in this and didn't have further comment.

President Angelo says he is now considering options, due the attention and protests drawn by this hire being made public, and is wondering if Van Dyke can continue in that job.