By J. Coyden Palmer
Like a coward who shoots over his shoulder from a car into an unarmed crowd, former Chicago Police Detective Dante Servin resigned from the force on May 17, just two days before he was scheduled to face a Police Board hearing to determine his future employment with the city.
His sudden resignation means the public and family of Rekia Boyd, the woman who Servin incorrectly shot and killed in 2012 on a warm spring night, will never get the answers they are seeking. Servin has been the target of dozens of protests and, along with the LaQuan McDonald case last October has been made the poster child for Chicago police misconduct. Although he was acquitted by a Cook County judge last year of second degree murder, it was because the judge said prosecutors in Anita Alvarez’s office charged Servin with the wrong crime. His resignation means no police disciplinary action can be taken against him.
“It is the Board’s understanding that given the resignation, counsel for the Superintendent will follow normal procedure and file a motion with the Board seeking to withdraw all charges against Servin without prejudice,” said Max A. Caproni, Executive Director of the Chicago Police Board. “The Board will then take that motion under advisement and take action at its regular monthly public meeting on Thursday, May 19. In light of the resignation, the previously scheduled evidentiary hearing will not proceed.”
Those who have wanted to see Servin outright fired believe he has gotten over on the city yet again as Servin will still be able to receive his pension benefits just as former Commander Jon Burge is. Burge has been living comfortably in Florida thanks to Chicago taxpayers, even after serving a brief time in prison for lying under oath about his involvement in torturing dozens of men, mostly African American and Latino.
“While this serves as a relief for the sake of both Rekia Boyd’s family and the larger Chicago community, it is also indicative of an unsurprising tactic by Servin to escape accountability,” said Trina Reynolds-Tyler, spokesperson for the group BYP100, which has been protesting against police misconduct and other social injustices. “The recent success of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit demanding the release of the Chicago Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) investigative files on Dante Servin is further evidence of this movement’s commitment to ensure police accountability. We understand that genuine civilian control of policing includes a demand for public transparency and access to information in all cases of police killings.”
Earlier this week Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has suffered politically for his handling of police misconduct cases, announced he was doing away with IPRA. Emanuel announced the creation of a civilian agency to replace it. He also announced the creation of a public safety inspector general that will be able to audit the department at any time and audit its investigations. Emanuel is also proposing a community safety oversight board.
“I believe these guiding principles and key reforms will meet our goals for transforming Chicago’s police accountability structure and reflect the conversations and proposals that have been offered by aldermen to me,” Emanuel wrote in an op-ed that appeared in a local newspaper.
The changes come as the Chicago Police Department is the subject of a federal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the loud public outcry over police and prosecutor accountability.
In the meantime, youth activists say the fight is not over and there is still much work to be done. Just hours after Servin’s resignation was announced, a small group descended on U.S. Cellular Field where the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros were playing. Some members of the group draped a banner over the scoreboard down the third baseline calling for Servin to receive no benefits. Security members quickly detained the group and took possession of the banner but filed no charges. They were allowed to stay in the park.
Reynolds-Tyler said the community at-large should still be concerned about Servin. She said he is a menace to society and the only reason he is not in prison is because of incompetence in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“Resignation allows Servin to take up employment as a police officer in any other city or town, which still puts Black people in danger and subjects us to police violence and control,” she said. “Likewise, resignation creates space for police like Servin to leave with dignity – something Servin does not deserve since he snatched Rekia’s ability to live in her full dignity. This is why police officers that murder, like Dante Servin, should not only be fired, but should have their pensions taken away as a part of accountability for their misconduct.”