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Does the Public Really Need to See Videos of Police Shootings?

A judge will soon decide if a gruesome video of the police shooting of a Chicago 17-year-old should be made public. To what end?
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REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

On October 20, 2014, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, an African American, was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. McDonald died from the bullets, which entered his chest, back, neck, arms, and head. This was just months after black teen Michael Brown was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri, and after the ensuing riots that inflamed the city. The details on McDonald’s death are murky in terms of why the officer shot and killed him, amounting largely to a “police (union)-said, witness said” argument. Follow the story trail at the Chicago Tribune to get the full scoop.

Whatever the disputes are over why Van Dyke fired and whether he was justified in doing so, the video from a nearby police car’s dashcam may clear them up. As could a court trial, but that won’t happen because the city of Chicago settled with McDonald’s family for $5 million before anyone sued. So all that’s left for resolution on what happened that October night last year is the video. And the evidence on it must be pretty conclusive, because Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel does not want the public to see it.