Lord! I truly wonder how some of you manage to dress yourselves every morning. I understand that an absurd 1.5 years of debate over Elgin Police Lt. Chris Jensen fatally shooting Decynthia Clements on that I-90 shoulder has inevitably clouded the issue, but some folks’ capacity to reject reality and substitute their own really is kinda frightening.
So, in an effort to bring balance to the Force, let’s review some of the inescapable realities that have had an effect and will continue to determine how this situation unfolds:
1. Whites are a minority in Elgin
I made this statement on Monday and some folks went nuts, so let’s clear it up. I can’t help it if some of you flunked second grade math and it’s not my fault that census workers count Hispanics as Caucasians. So, here’s how those Elgin demographics actually pan out:
- 44.9 percent Hispanic
- 7.4 percent black
- 6.1 percent Asian
- 1.0 percent Native American
- 40.6 percent white
I don’t care what anyone says, that means whites are a minority in Elgin. And if it’s finally gotten to the point where we can’t agree on math we’re completely bleeped!
2. You can’t fire a police officer because some people don’t like him
Illinois may be an at-will state, but the capacity to fire anyone for any reason does not extend to public workers. Lt. Jensen has stellar 20-year track record and he’s been cleared of any criminal charges by three separate independent agencies. And the fact that his existence bothers some people is not grounds for dismissal.
If the City does cave in to a vast minority’s demand to oust him, not only will Jensen be the recipient of a hefty settlement, but the courts will reinstate him.
The irony is, while the anti-Jensen folks want him fired for failing to follow the rules, they want Elgin to fail to follow the rules and fire him.
3. What message would Jensen’s termination send to the rest of the EPD?
Always thoughtful Elgin resident Reggie Kee made this excellent point, among others, at the “listening session” we discussed on Monday. If you fire an officer for a justifiable shooting, it will put every other EPD officer’s life at risk.
Think about it! The next time an officer is forced to draw their weapon in self-defense, the prospect of being terminated might make them hesitate just long enough to get shot first. And that’s a patently unfair position in which to put an entire police department.
4. Hindsight is always 20-20
To watch a video over and over again – parts of it in slow motion – does not nearly equate to being on the scene that dark evening. To make matters worse, those cameras don’t provide the proper perspective because they exaggerate and distort distance to cover more area.
But even if those Monday morning quarterbacks could make the correct call, whether Ms. Clements jumped or stumbled out of her vehicle is immaterial. Again, it would be beyond unreasonable to expect a law enforcement officer to make a split-second life and death decision based upon that kind of nuance.
The bottom line is, if you move towards police officers with a knife in any manner, you’re probably going to get shot.
5. I’m not anti-protest or anti-protester
This country was founded on the notion of protest and I firmly believe you have to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything. So, with the exception of shouting people down or co-opting meetings with megaphones, I wholeheartedly support that kind of activism.
What I might add, however, is with Jensen eventually coming back, if you have an issue with Elgin leadership – or the lack of it in my case – run for city council, actively support someone who’s running for city council, or, for God’s sake, vote for someone who’s a candidate for city council.
That’s the only act that ever really changes anything, but only 7,000 out of 58,000 eligible Elgin residents vote in odd-year elections. And if you don’t vote, then don’t bitch, either.
6. Ms. Clements wasn’t a saint
No one is! And let me, once again, be clear that whatever demons haunted Decynthia in no way deprived her of her civil rights. I also understand that it’s human nature, especially on the part of family members, to rehabilitate those who’ve died.
But if Lt. Jensen’s track record is fair game, then so is Ms. Clements’.
When the EPD showed up at her parents’ front door after the shooting, before they could say a word, her father, who hadn’t seen her for three weeks, asked, “Where did she OD?” Though she certainly struggled with mental health issues, the move on the part of some supporters to omit the effects addiction had in that I-90 standoff is patently unfair.
The stats are clear. Tasers work about 50 percent of the time on sober folks and virtually none of the time on addicts under the influence.
For better or worse, Ms. Clements was who she was, and her death doesn’t change that. My fervent hope is, as a result of this tragedy, we, as a society, develop a new determination to better deal with mental health and addiction issues.
7. Nobody deserves to twist in the wind like this
Whether you believe Lt. Jensen should be reinstated or fired, the City of Elgin has done no one a service by dragging this out for a year-and-a-half. There’s absolutely no excuse for their inability or outright refusal to make a decision.
The three investigations could’ve run concurrently, placating the “public” isn’t working, and the longer this lingers, the worse the reaction of those inevitably disappointed people will be.
And I don’t care what anyone says, even if you’re getting paid to do it, to have to sit at home and wait 548 days for a group of completely oblivious and well-salaried people to make a decision that may well affect the rest of your life is the bleepin’ definition of stress.
Considering the exceptional effort Elgin’s made to attract quality police officers, who’s going to want to work for the EPD now?
Trust me! At this point, I know this column isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. But everything we’ve discussed here is a fact, and unless we can agree on the basic facts, it’s going to be an even rougher road going forward.