ST. CHARLES TOWNSHIP – In a letter today, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon added his voice to condemning the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
McMahon recounts four separate killings of African Americans in the past six years: Eric Garner in New York, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and now Floyd.
“What happened to each of these fellow Americans is horrific and reveals an ugly side of life in America,” McMahon wrote. “The anger following these recent deaths is understandable and a repeat of the anger of 2014. I hoped that law enforcement had learned from 2014 and progressed. Clearly, not all of them have or care to.”
McMahon wrote that he was disgusted by the image of a sworn officer kneeling on the neck of Floyd “as he lay on the ground, handcuffed and helpless, begging for his life.”
McMahon wrote that he recognizes the anger Americans have over this and that peaceful marches, sit-ins and civil disobedience should be expected – as protest was something the nation was founded on.
In his letter, McMahon called for equalizing school funding in the state, where children on Chicago’s north shore get a different education than those in Auburn Gresham.
“The General Assembly must equalize school funding and classroom sizes across our state so children in Chicago, the suburbs, central Illinois and southern Illinois receive a similar education,” McMahon wrote. “Children in some parts of Illinois play on multi-million dollar athletic fields while kids in the Austin neighborhood worry about getting safety to and from school.”
In his letter, McMahon recalled his time in 2018 prosecuting former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald, his 10 years as state's attorney – chief law enforcement officer and prosecutor in one of the state’s largest counties – which “taught me two primary things that must change in America to improve the relationship between police and those they serve.”
“First, change the standard that allows an officer to legally use deadly force from one based on ‘reasonable believe’ of imminent danger to one in which it is ‘necessary,’” McMahon wrote.
“Second, use-of-force policies and trainings should require officers to use force only when there is an imminent threat of death or serious injury (to themselves or others) and to use the least amount of force necessary,” McMahon wrote. “And train officers and impose a legal duty to intervene when a colleague may be on the brink of or is using excessive force. This should be standard practice, but making it the law with consequences will reduce the likelihood that those who do step in with face backlash from fellow officers.”
In his letter, McMahon called for consistency when applying justice to officers who commit “egregious misconduct,” when frequently, there are no consequences.
“Accuracy and consistency in criminal justice creates confidence in the promise of equal rights and protection,” McMahon wrote.
“It is time for all of us to wake up and do something about school funding, job creation and economic opportunity and the fundamental fairness in the pillars of a civilized society so every child has the opportunity to go to a school that is properly funded, has access to stable and affordable housing, economic opportunity and a fair chance to reach their potential,” McMahon wrote.
In his letter, McMahon wrote that he was asking himself if he has contributed to the discord or done his part to “strengthen the fabric of America?”
“What have I learned since 2014, the Rodney King beating in 1991 and the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s?” McMahon wrote. “We have made some progress but we can do better.”
His letter provided a link to policing.civilrights.org for more information on how to change the dynamic between police and communities.