When a Killer Cop Retires: The Resignation of Dante Servin

Rekia Boyd's brother Martinez Sutton addresses a crowd of protesters outside Chicago police headquarters in April 28, 2015. (Photo credit: Kelly Hayes)Rekia Boyd’s brother Martinez Sutton addresses a crowd of protesters outside Chicago police headquarters on April 28, 2015. (Photo: Kelly Hayes)

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On May 19, organizers and community members around the United States engaged in #SayHerName actions in support of women and femmes who have been harmed by state violence. This national day of action should have coincided with the start of the termination proceedings for Dante Servin, the Chicago police officer who murdered 22-year-old Rekia Boyd on March 22, 2012. Instead, Servin resigned on May 17, two days before an evidentiary hearing was scheduled to begin: as the last stage in his firing process.

Dante Servin has literally gotten away with murder.

For four years, Chicago activists and community members, led by Rekia’s family, have marched, protested, held teach-ins and attended Chicago Police Board meetings demanding that Servin be held accountable for taking Rekia’s young life. Every step of the way, Rekia’s family and supporters have been met with bureaucratic red tape preventing justice. From unnecessarily prolonged review periods, to the three years it took for the criminal case to face trial, to the technicality that enabled Servin to walk scot-free even though the presiding judge stated that he should have been charged with first-degree murder, each step illustrated the city government’s culture of complicity and “blue wall of silence.”

Here is the timeline of state violence and government missteps inflicted upon Rekia’s family for the past four years:

  • March 21, 2012 – Rekia was shot by Chicago Police Department (CPD) officer Dante Servin.
  • March 22, 2012 – Rekia was taken off of life support after doctors declared her brain dead.
  • November 28, 2013 – Involuntary manslaughter charges were filed against Servin — 617 days (or one year, eight months and one week) after Rekia Boyd’s murder.
  • April 9, 2015 – The criminal trial against Servin began, 498 days (one year, four months and two weeks) after the charges were filed.
  • April 20, 2015 – Judge Dennis Porter granted the defense a directed verdict acquitting Servin of involuntary manslaughter, stating that he should have been charged with first-degree murder. The state’s decision to undercharge Servin for his crime at the outset meant that he could not be convicted of a higher charge at the discretion of the court. Since double jeopardy attached the moment a jury was impaneled, Servin cannot be retried for the murder of Rekia Boyd.
  • September 16, 2015 – After five months of protests at the monthly Chicago Police Board meeting, the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) — a city-run entity that has been widely discredited for rubber-stamping police violence — recommended firing Servin. Per the guidelines, the superintendent had 60 days to respond.
  • November 24, 2015 – Seventy days later, the day the video of the murder of Laquan McDonald was released to the public after a court ruling, former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy agreed with IPRA’s recommendation to fire Servin. In the week following the release of the video, McCarthy was fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Per the firing guidelines, the Chicago Police Board had six months to schedule an evidentiary hearing for Servin.
  • May 19, 2016 – Six months later, the first date of the evidentiary hearing was scheduled to begin.

Throughout these four years, every single aspect of government dragged its feet to remain in compliance with the unnecessary bureaucratic rules in place to fire a Chicago cop. Only after mounting public pressure were charges even filed. Most Chicago police killings result in no action; Servin’s criminal trial reflected the first time a Chicago cop had faced such charges in 17 years. Only after sustained public pressure demanding justice for Rekia, coupled with international outrage over the Laquan McDonald execution, did McCarthy recommend Servin’s firing. Every step of the way, the system failed and prevented justice from occurring, revealing how invested the existing Chicago court and police systems are in protecting police at all costs, even when they commit first-degree murder.

Servin was only the second cop IPRA recommended to fire for a shooting since its inception in 2007. Now that Servin has resigned, he can begin collecting his pension when he turns 50 in July 2018. His salary, as of December 31, 2015, was $97,044.

Dante Servin has literally gotten away with murder.

Servin knew he was going to be fired for murdering Rekia Boyd. His resignation is a response to the increasing mass public pressure calling for his firing led by the disciplined organizing of Rekia’s family, who have remained steadfast in the demand that he be held accountable for her murder. The fact that it took four years for Servin to face a termination hearing for what Judge Porter called first-degree murder is unconscionable and unacceptable.

A full overhaul of this system is needed. We need the people of Chicago in power.

As Chicago has seen with the recent police murders of Pierre Loury, Bettie Jones and Quintonio LeGrier, Chicago police continue to feel invincible because they are well aware that there is no system of real accountability, even when they commit the most atrocious of crimes: taking an innocent human life. The Chicago police officer who executed Laquan McDonald by shooting him 16 times was hired by the Fraternal Order of Police as he faces murder charges brought forth only after a judge mandated the release of the video footage detailing the murder.

Rahm Emanuel told The Chicago Tribune that he will “fix” this system. The mayor said: “Laquan McDonald is a wake-up call to all of us. It’s reminder that there’s a lot broken. And I’m determined to fix things that have been broken throughout the system. When I say that, you — it’s not just the criminal justice. It’s opportunity. It’s a promise. And when I say ‘opportunity,’ meaning the opportunity to get a job and get a skill set. It’s the opportunity through mentoring, to give young men a role model and a father figure they wouldn’t have.”

These statements, while directed at the subject of a murder committed by police, only serve as further evidence that Mayor Emanuel is incapable and unwilling to address the rampant violence and abuse perpetrated by police in his city. Instead of addressing the myriad ways in which police terror has plagued the people of Chicago, he references young men needing role models and father figures. This is both ridiculous and insulting. Rekia Boyd did not die because she needed a skill set; she was in fact set to begin nursing school the following week on April 3. Instead, her funeral occurred that day. Rekia died because Dante Servin murdered her.

Laquan McDonald did not die because he needed an opportunity to get a job. Laquan died because CPD officer Jason Van Dyke shot him 16 times.

A full overhaul of this system is needed. We need the people of Chicago in power. The facts have shown us that the current system is incapable of providing basic safety to its constituents and is unwilling to hold its employees accountable even when they commit heinous acts of violence and murder. We do not need more superficial task forces. We do not need Band-Aids. We need a complete restructuring.

Emanuel continues to enact policies that further exacerbate already desperate conditions. In a city that provides 40 percent of its operating budget to policing and has the most police per 100,000 people in the country, the mayor conducted the largest mass public school closing in US history and closed half of the City’s mental health care centers. As predicted, intra-communal violence has increased.

Chicago State University is the state’s only predominantly Black university, and faces imminent closure due to a budget stalemate. The people of Chicago continue to suffer under the dictatorial actions of Emanuel and draconian cuts by Gov. Bruce Rauner, and we will continue to suffer, including losing our lives and the lives of our loved ones, until we radically change the ways in which this system operates.

In the wake of Servin’s resignation (with an intact pension), grassroots organizers with Black Lives Matter Chicago, Lifted Voices and Women’s All Points Bulletin have joined Rekia’s family in issuing the following demands:

  • We demand the immediate revoking of Dante Servin’s pension.
  • We demand an immediate cap of CPD’s budget.
  • We demand the reopening of the 50 schools closed.
  • We demand the reopening of the mental health centers closed.
  • We demand the immediate closing of Homan Square and all other unknown “black sites.”
  • We demand the immediate implementation of an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).
  • We demand that all police dashcam and bodycam videos be released within one week.
  • We demand the reopening of Ronald Johnson’s case.
  • We demand immediate disinvestment in CPD and a reallocation of the operating funds currently allocated toward policing, which represent 40 percent of the City’s operating budget and result in $4 million a day spent on policing.
  • We demand a redirection of these saved funds to be used for housing for the homeless and nearly homeless, the full funding of crisis and trauma centers, and a jobs program for our most underserved communities.
  • We demand immediate criminal prosecution of all police officers and government officials involved in the cover-ups of the murders of Rekia Boyd, Cedrick Chatman, Laquan McDonald and Ronald Johnson, including the city lawyers responsible for withholding evidence.
  • We demand the firing of all CPD officers who have filed or signed off on false police reports involving violence committed by themselves or other officers.
  • We demand that Officers Murphy and Lopez be fired without a pension and be tried for perjury after falsifying reports on Pastor Catherine Brown.

We cannot be satisfied with cosmetic and superficial “solutions” like that of the hiring of the new Chicago police superintendent, Eddie Johnson, who is supposed to “restore trust” merely because he is Black. Moving a Black face to the forefront of a corrupt police department, and allowing Dante Servin to quietly profit from his crimes, does nothing to address the grief and rage of our communities. Passing a murder weapon from one hand to the next will not bring back our dead, or address the impunity with which their lives were taken. We will not accept mere gestures. And we will not be silenced. It is time for a serious change.

Our futures depend on it.