Chicago Police Officer Aldo Brown tearfully bemoaned his “split-second decision” in 2012 to strike an unarmed, non-combative man — moments before a federal judge handed down a sentence of two years in prison.
Brown and his then-partner Officer George Stacker were responding to a tip in September 2012 about possible drug sales taking place at the Omar Salma convenience store in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood. The plainclothes officers can be seen in security footage interacting with a small group inside the store. Brown, seemingly out of the blue, proceeds to strike Jecque Howard in the face, knocking him to the floor — whom he falsely claimed had a handgun protruding from his back pocket.
Brown can be seen on tape punching and kicking Howard — even after he was lying on the ground, handcuffed.
Brown’s teary-eyed admission to U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall, however, only came after security footage revealed the truth: Howard did not have a gun. In fact, Brown had lied under oath as recently as October 2015.
“I was under tremendous stress because of all the killing,” he lamented to the judge. “I’m not trying to hide from what I did … I’m not a bad person.”
‘All the killing’ which had so burdened Brown was the violence endemic in the South Side neighborhood he had patrolled for years. But Kendall lacked sympathy, saying his snap decision had added to tension between police and residents in an area where trust was needed most.
“We cannot have a policing community where it’s us versus them,” she noted. “It’s not a sliding scale where if violence increases, constitutional rights decrease.”
Alarmingly, Brown’s two-year federal prison sentence is thought to be the first for a Chicago cop using excessive force in the line of duty in seven years. As the Chicago Tribune reported, the last time one of the city’s police faced time for such misconduct was the 2009 beating of a hospital patient shackled to a wheelchair. Officer William Cozzi received a 40-month prison sentence.
Further, Chicago police officers almost never face charges — unless video evidence “backs up a victim’s version of events, records show,” said the Tribune.
Brown had been assigned to paid desk duty after the beating, but now is suspended without pay. He is obliged to report to prison to begin the sentence by June 24. As the conviction is a felony, he will likely be fired.
“Today it was justice for the criminals,” Daniel Herbert, Brown’s attorney stated of the sentence. “The message that we have now sent out is that there is no reason, there is no incentive for a police officer ever to do proactive work again going forward.”
Perhaps Herbert’s characterization of the incident is exactly telling of the controversy surrounding Chicago P.D.
From revelations about the department operating a black site at Homan Square, to multiple incidents of police destruction of records, to officers general tendency for lying until video reveals otherwise — Chicago police could easily be described as a dangerous gang.
“My brother,” Brown’s sister said, describing his family life, “is not who the media and the court system is [sic] making him out to be. He’s not a criminal. He’s part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
While Brown might not have been a violent man, his conviction stands as stark reminder to police — when tasked with keeping a city free from crime, there are no excuses for allowing yourself to become a criminal. Even once.
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