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Chicago Police Officer Convicted for Opening Fire on Car Full of Teens

Actual accountability in the Windy City, thanks to a federal jury.

ProanoChicago PoliceA federal jury has actually convicted a Chicago Police officer of misconduct! He might even go to prison.

Officer Marco Proano, 42, was convicted Monday (after just four hours of deliberation) of two felony counts of using excessive force in violation of civil rights.

The maximum federal penalty for his conviction is up to 10 years in prison. He will actually serve much less time, given his lack of a criminal record.

Despite the drumbeat of stories about horrible behavior by officers in Chicago, actual accountability has been hard to come by. The Chicago Tribune notes that this is, remarkably, the first time a Chicago police officer has been convicted of federal charges for his on-duty behavior as a cop.

In 2013, Proano was caught on a police dashboard camera opening fire on a stolen car just seconds after arriving at the scene of a crime. He continued shooting as the car attempted to back away from him. Two teens in the car were injured.

Prosecutors argued (and had training officers testify) that Proana violated training about when and how to use his weapon.

U.S. Attorney Joel Levin told the press yesterday after the conviction that the existence of the video played a major role in getting the conviction, and he wasn't sure they would have met the burden of proof without it.

Given that information, it's no wonder Chicago Police officers have a lengthy history of malfunctioning, unused, and even sabotaged dashcams. In the shooting of Laquan McDonald, several of the cop cars on the scene did not have working dashcams and did not capture Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald. The one video that was released did not have sound.

The murder case against Van Dyke still looms (his lawyer was also the lawyer who defended Proano).

A disappointing, but not surprising detail: Not even the rare federal conviction will force the local police union to consider that officers can or should be held accountable for this type of reckless on-the-job behavior. Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham complained, "It seems that the criminal elements in our society are not accountable in our justice system, while the police face an intense scrutiny for every split-second decision they make."

Yes, yes they do. Part of being a police professional involves realizing you shouldn't pull out your service weapon immediately upon arrival at a scene and shoot 16 times at a moving vehicle. As long as police unions provide cover for this behavior, even after an extremely rare conviction, how on earth can officers expect to build better relationships with their own communities?

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama investigated the Chicago Police Department and found a whole host of abuses. But now under President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department is backing away from federal oversight of local police departments.

Today, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced she was going to try to force the issue, filing a lawsuit to demand federal court oversight over the Chicago Police. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, she has convinced a previously reluctant Mayor Rahm Emanuel to work with her to ask the public for input on what a consent agreement to reform the police would look like. Read more here.

Photo Credit: Chicago Police

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  • Rhywun||

    What is federal oversight supposed to accomplish that state oversight won't? I thought local concerns were none of the feds' business.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Are there any laws in Illinois against the excessive use of police force? How often have they been levied and/or stuck? Are the prosecutors who bring those charges the same ones who work with the police departments every day to prosecute other criminals?

  • Magnitogorsk||

    Enforcing the constitution

  • Calidissident||

    I think the feds have a valid concern in ensuring that the Constitution is respected by local governments.

    That said, in this case, if the state government is willing to try to regulate and rein in the local PD, I don't see why they have to ask the feds to do that.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    I think that the Constitution for the united States of America guarantees each state a republican form of government.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Fraternal Order of Police President Kevin Graham complained, "It seems that the criminal elements in our society are not accountable in our justice system, while the police face an intense scrutiny for every split-second decision they make."

    Man I haven't seen that kind of clueless butthurt since the last time I read the comments at H&R.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I wouldn't call the snark 'insightful'.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Well, just because you can't manage to glean any insight from it...

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I don't get it.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    That's a surprise.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Prosecutors argued (and had training officers testify) that Proana violated training about when and how to use his weapon.

    Had official policy been to fire on a retreating suspect, it would have been perfectly legal.

  • Charles Easterly||

    Procedures were followed....

  • ||

    Had official policy been to fire on a retreating suspect, it would have been perfectly legal.

    This was part of the defense. A kid was trying to exit the vehicle as it was retreating. The officer's training left him no choice but to open fire on the vehicle in order to save the kid's life.

  • croaker||

    Then it would be "pattern and practice" and the entire department would be fucked over.

  • cgr2727||

    The best part is he got convicted. The second-best part is in a story the Tribune ran (behind a paywall, so sorry no link): he walked up to the car with his gun held sideways, gangsta-style. You can kind of see it in the photo accompanying Reason's story.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    Chicago-style technique > Weaver stance.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Officer Marco Proano, 42

    My first instinct is to check on Mr. Proano's immigration status.

  • ||

    Well then, your first instinct would be wrong!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    He will actually serve much less time, given his lack of a criminal record.

    Wait, he's a cop, isn't he?

  • croaker||

    And that's worth another two columns reduction. No jail time.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    how on earth can officers expect to build better relationships with their own communities?

    Make sure you get a clean kill.

  • ATXChappy||

    "...how on earth can officers expect to build better relationships with their own communities?"

    To channel my inner Bill Clinton, It depends on what your definition of 'better relationships' is. From the officers perspective, having a gun to intimidate the community, and a badge that gives them impunity would probably seem pretty sweet. So, why on earth would they want a 'better relationship' with their communities?

  • Brother Kyfho||

    In this case "better relationship" means a more intimidated, subservient and compliant community.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Bee tee dubs, good alt-text. That person appears to be shooting gangsta style and with a hand in his pocket.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    "If they hadn't done what I told 'em not to do, they'd still be alive."

  • cssjunkie||

    Correct. And they chose to ignore him and do something that they might be about to start shooting at him from the car windows. I would do the same thing. No way am I gonna wait and just hope the perps aren't hardened gang bangers with Uzis.

    So once more it's demonstrated to the cops that blacks are not to be trifled with, on pain of incarceration. Won't be too long before the only types who will work as cops in Chicago will be supreme thugs that know how to cover their tracks. Nice.

  • Texasmotiv||

    "Once more"? Did you miss the part where this was the first Chicago cop to be convicted of federal charges despite the near pathological abuses?

    I understand the reverence for people who put themselves in harms way to protect their communities. I know plenty of good cops but it doesn't help anyone to allow injustice to fester and further give citizens a feeling that their neighborhoods are occupied by an invading army. It just escalates things more and makes the good cop's job more dangerous.

    Were the victims in this case innocent little angels? No, they were committing a crime. That doesn't excuse the use of deadly force as a first resort or careless discharge of a weapon.

  • Brother Kyfho||

    > I know plenty of good cops

    No, you don't. Every one of those "good cops" you think you know would back up (both militarily and with deceitful testimony) this murderous thug in a heartbeat. Clearly you haven't read of the Utah nurse kidnapped by Salt Lake City policeman because she wouldn't perform or allow the cop to perform an illegal blood draw. (see Reason's detailed article on the topic) SEVERAL HOSPITAL POLICE WITNESSED THE ENTIRE EPISODE INCLUDING HOSPITAL ATTORNEYS EXPLAINING THE (fully supported by SCOTUS decisions) HOSPITAL POSITION, WATCHED THE VIOLENT ARREST, AND

    DID.

    NOTHING.

  • Calidissident||

    Is the union guy just knowingly lying his ass off, or is he seriously delusional enough to think cops get held to a higher standard by the courts? Let's see what happens when a civilian fires those shots in that situation.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It can be two things.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    You don't have to wait.

    White man who shot dead black teen at gas station in argument over loud rap music is convicted of first-degree murder

    Dunn is accused of firing 10 times into the SUV, including several times as the driver tried to get away.

    [...]

    He had already been convicted of three counts of attempted second-degree murder in February and faces at least 60 years in prison on those counts alone.
  • Brother Kyfho||

    The dude wasn't shooting at cops.

    The courts don't really care what us cattle do to each other, just don't even inconvenience one of the blue/brown shirted overlords.

  • ||

    I'm not able to pull up the specific quote at the moment, but a portion of Proano's defense was that one of the teens was half-out of the car and that the car speeding away, posed a threat to the kid's life and his training/duty exculpates the shooting as a means to save the kid's life.

  • cssjunkie||

    I viewed the video several times. It appears to indicate the perps were in a car outside the frame. An officer jumps into frame and is yelling at the perps with his gun pointed, at which point the perps ignore his orders and start backing away fast.

    A cop in that position may just be thinking that the last thing he or she will ever see is a gun coming out the side window as that car backs away. I'm certain it's happened to cops before. It's in every action movie for the last 40 years, practically, so the perps could easily have been thinking along those lines, given their displayed tendency to ignore cop's legal orders to freeze.

    Yet most of the intellectually unemployeds commenting here seem to think THEY would have waited until the gun actually did come out of that car full of dangerous car thieves who are currently ignoring the orders of a cop pointing a gun. Sure you might, and maybe you wouldn't get blown away for it, But you will never know, not having the fortitude to actually put your OWN precious life on the line for the public good, the way that cop does.

    Maybe that cop started firing too soon, and maybe not. But if the perps had obeyed those legal orders, they would be unharmed. Instead they chose the way of violence. Claiming the cops are SO bad that it's "them or us" is a cheap cop out for the criminally inclined.

  • Calidissident||

    So cops get to shoot on the chance the perps may have a gun, which they may use against him? If this is a troll, well done.

  • Paloma||

    In which case, a cop gets to shoot anyone they please, because anyone just MAY have a gun.

  • ||

    'in every action movie for the last 40 yrs.' was a good touch. Actually firing at the perps and/or shooter in the car is pointless, you'd never hit them. Just fire at the gas tank as they speed away, blow the whole car, and kill everyone inside. Also, don't get into a shootout with teen thugs within 6 mos. of retirement unless your last name is Duvall.

  • Texasmotiv||

    I'm a little disgusted this had to be handled from the Feds. It's definitely different to see actual accountability for the careless loss of life here.

    I wish that these departments were more concerned with justice and the lives of the citizenry than "covering their own".

    (Intentionally catty cynical statement)I'm sure plenty of people would love a job where if they want a vacation all they have to do is kill their next traffic stop.

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