CHICAGO – A white Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting of a black teenager has been hired to work as a janitor for the city's police union as he awaits trial, the union president said Thursday, prompting protests.
Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago, says the union hired Jason Van Dyke about three weeks ago. Van Dyke is accused of shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. The shooting was captured on squad-car video and has prompted investigations, including a federal civil rights probe of the Chicago Police Department. Van Dykes has been suspended from the department without pay.
The union would do the same for any Chicago officer and have hired dozens of people who are in no-pay status, Angelo said.
"This officer is in a very difficult situation financially. He has a family and we would do it for anybody that works as a Chicago Police officer," Angelo said.
The union's action prompted about a dozen demonstrators to gather outside FOP headquarters to voice outrage at the union's action.
"It's a slap in the face to Chicago residents," said activist Ja'Mal Green.
Retired Chicago police detective and former union member Cornelius Longstreet said the union was wrong in hiring Van Dyke.
"I'm not saying that Mr. Van Dyke is guilty, I'm not saying that he's innocent," Longstreet said. "What the bottom line is, is that I don't think this is something that the union should have done. I think the union is sending a bad message."
Van Dyke does various tasks at the union headquarters, Angelo said.
"He might be on the roof, he might be in the office, he does anything we need," Angelo said.
Van Dyke has lost other jobs due to publicity and that threats closed his wife's business, the union said. Van Dyke's attorney last week asked court officials to let the officer not attend hearings because he has received threats of violence and death when he comes to court.