ROCK ISLAND, Illinois (Quad-City Times) — Rock Island Alderman Dylan Parker, Ward 5, is facing fallout after referring to police as “agents of state violence” in a post on his official alderman Facebook page.
The post came after Rock Island County State’s Attorney Dora Villarreal issued a decision April 28 that no charges would be filed against four officers involved in the foot pursuit and shooting death of DeShawn Tatum on April 1.
Parker said that although Villarreal and the Rock Island County Integrity Task Force determined the shooting was justified under the law, the city and police department have no policy on the books governing officer foot pursuits.
“A number of years ago, the police department recognized the uselessness and increased risk of injury or death to officers or the public with respect to vehicular pursuits. As such, Rock Island has a policy prohibiting said pursuits,” Parker wrote. “Are foot pursuits necessary? How effective are they at detaining individuals? How often do they result in injury or death for officers or members of the public?”
Police pursuit policies are under review across the country, including in Chicago, where an officer last month fatally shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo during a foot pursuit.
Parker, who represents a district mixed with historic homes, low-income residents and a large Black population, said he had ridden with police officers several times during their shifts and witnessed the adrenaline and excitement that accompanied foot pursuits. He questioned how that might influence a tragic outcome.
“While the attention, today, is an exoneration of the police’s behavior, I challenge city staff, my colleagues on city council and members of the general public to consider why Mr. Tatum and members of the Rock Island Police Department were put in that situation in the first place,” Parker wrote.
“One life lost is too many. The loss of even one life should prompt us to examine the circumstances that led to the tragedy. We, as policy makers, have a responsibility to ensure the agents of state violence under our authority have the appropriate policies to check that danger.”
Fraternal Order of Police Executive Director Shawn Roselieb issued a statement April 30, calling Parker’s comments “anti-police” and demanded an apology and retraction.
“Alderman Parker made his true position on law enforcement clear when he referred to the officers of the Rock Island Police Department as ‘agents of state violence,’ ” Roselieb wrote. “This type of language is inflammatory, divisive and reprehensible. His inappropriate, broad brushstroke characterization in no way depicts the men and women who proudly and courageously serve the citizens of Rock Island.
“It makes us sad to think a Rock Island elected official feels that using such language, in such a public forum, is a meaningful use of his political platform. Alderman Parker owes the members of the Rock Island Police Department and the citizens of Rock Island an apology and retraction.”
Mayor Mike Thoms said Tuesday he also was disappointed with Parker’s comments.
“I think it was very unprofessional and hurtful; I was angered by Dylan’s comments,” Thoms said. “City council and the mayor should stand behind any department in the city and be supportive of the police department. (The shooting) was all found to be justified, and we should not be critical of the event. We should defend the police department for doing a fine job.
“There were a number of people also angry with Dylan.”
Thoms said a few residents had contacted him and demanded Parker’s resignation from city council, but added he would not ask Parker to resign.
Thoms confirmed the city and police department does not have a foot pursuit policy in place, but that it does have a policy regarding vehicle pursuits. He said if a foot pursuit policy study were done, it should be conducted by an independent, third party.
Parker issued a statement Tuesday saying his comments were merely an observation and not “an accusation nor condemnation.”
“It is my understanding that the labor council objected to my use of “agents of state violence,” while providing no feedback nor commentary on the actual substance of my (foot pursuit) policy recommendation,” Parker said.
“The police, like the military, inhabit a unique space within American government and civic life wherein they are empowered, through the state, to enact violence. To suggest otherwise would be a propaganda feat of Orwellian proportions. I recognize the difficulty and hazard police officers are exposed to; my policy recommendation aimed to limit that exposure.
“Additionally, I do not question the sincere intention of police officers in wanting to protect their community and be a force for public good,” Parker said. “However, as I stated originally, neither my appreciation for the police nor individual officers’ intentions should ignore the very real power of the police that is authorized through the state. If we are truly a people that believe in limited government, our elected officials must endeavor to ensure we have sufficient policies to check that power.
“For the benefit of my constituents, I intend to do so.”
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