Before we hit the ground running, please allow me to issue this stipulation. Though most Elginians disagree with my assessments, their responses to my series of columns on the disposition of Elgin Police Lieutenant Chris Jensen in regard to the tragic shooting death of DeCynthia Clements have been reasonable and civil.
That’s all I ask! My singular goal is, and has always been, to continue to the conversation. And that’s a very difficult proposition when we’re always screaming at each other.
With that caveat issued, the consistent content of those responses still bothers me. We liberals seem more than willing to call out the President and his supporters for their capacity to ignore the truth, but we fail to see the very same intractability in ourselves.
For example, I too, love brand new firebrand Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but if she presses her radical progressive agenda too far too quickly, it will inevitably create the kind of equal and opposite political reaction that brought us Donald Trump.
Similarly, I’m no fan of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but her insistence on quashing any impeachment talk amongst her peers is dead on. Sure! It’s fun to hear someone say, “Impeach the motherfucker,” but all that’s gonna do is rally Trump’s disaffected base right back to his side. Pelosi’s smart enough to see they’re already abandoning him droves.
As this columnist likes to say, “Do you want to get what you want, or do you simply want feel good?” And if you want to get what you want, it requires critical thinking.
It’s the same complete lack of critical thinking regarding the Jensen investigations that has me heading to hide in the crawl space. Because if this “whatever I’ve been thinking for the last five minutes has got to be the truth” cultural shift continues, we truly are doomed.
To wit, to read those column responses and a variety of letters-to-the-editor on the subject, is a lot like watching a SportsCenter installment where they’re dissecting the latest Bears loss based on whatever on the emotion they’re feeling at the time.
That kind of thing might work for sportscasters, but it’s not the way the State Police, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, and City of Elgin work. They’re bound by the law and fact, not the kind of armchair quarterbacking I’ve been watching.
The only considerations that matter to the investigators are these. Did Lt. Jensen violate Clement’s civil rights? Did he abrogate any statute when he resorted to lethal force? Did the law require the EPD to apply non-lethal methods on that I-90 shoulder?
Put more simply, did Lt. Jensen break the law? And the answer to that and our three preceding questions is a resounding “No!” That’s why he will be cleared of any criminal charges. To come to that conclusion is a matter of applying critical, and not wishful, thinking.
“But Jeff! They weren’t that close, she wasn’t leaping at anyone, they shoulda used tasers, they knew she was high on drugs, she presented no threat, she stumbled out of the vehicle, and Jensen had plenty of backup!” Sorry, those are all utterly immaterial suppositions that have no statutory basis. And most of them are dead wrong, anyway.
After the CCSAO clears Jensen, the City of Elgin will investigate whether he violated any EPD standard or policy. They will determine if he followed protocol in a standoff situation. And just like it is with the law, those standards are specifically spelled out in print.
So, again! Whatever you and I might think about that sad scenario is immaterial because the investigators will not be relying on emotion or wishful thinking.
That investigation will find the officers on the scene provided Ms. Clements with every opportunity to end the standoff. Given their proximity, rubber bullets would’ve killed her. Breaking the passenger side window would’ve turned the smoldering fire she set inside her vehicle into an inferno and killed her. Tasers work on sober folks just 50 percent of the time, and they don’t work on people under the influence at all.
And they will make that ruling because those are the facts and it’s patently absurd to ask an officer involved in a standoff to make the kind of split-second decisions that would determine whether someone’s leaping or stumbling, high or sober, capable of doing damage with a knife, what kind of knife they’re wielding, and whether non-lethal methods will be effective.
Those unrealistic expectations would lead to a frequently fatal paralysis through analysis.
Officer Jason Van Dyke pumping 16 shots into Laquan McDonald? That’s a violation of police standards. Shooting a fleeing and unarmed suspect in the back? That’s a violation of police protocol. But shooting someone who’s coming at you with a knife after setting their own car on fire is not a policy breach.
How many news stories have we read describing how it took six officers or hospital orderlies to subdue someone on crack?
We have the luxury of repeatedly watching and pausing the tape to come to our conclusions, but the officers on the scene did not. So, when you dispense with the emotion, jumping to a conclusion that fits your political world view, and simply wanting to feel good, then, and only then, can critical thinking be applied.
Give it a shot sometime!