Mayor Brandon Johnson, Civilian Office of Police Accountability Chief (COPA) Andrea Kersten and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx demonstrated a unified message April 9 of what transparency and accountability looks like for each of their agencies following the public release of body-camera footage in the March 21 fatal police shooting of Dexter Reed. 

Reed was stopped by four Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The situation escalated, leading to police firing 96 times in 41 seconds.

“In the past, previous administrations have not always moved with expediency to release footage, particularly when it comes to informing the public, taking months or even a year to release footage or only doing so when faced with legal action,” Johnson said. “This administration is committed to transparency, justice and the rule of law.”

Historically, in Chicago, Black people have experienced decades of police terror and are forced to relive those horrors again and again—-all while also fighting for justice, accountability and transparency. Mishandlings of police misconduct cases by city officials have sowed distrust and contributed to the public’s trauma in times of crisis. 

The aftermath of the 2014 police murder of Laquan McDonald is emblematic of that friction. McDonald was fatally shot by CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke however, the public wasn’t made aware of the circumstances of his murder until a year later. 

Activists and journalists, including independent journalist Brandon Smith, pressured the city to release the footage after an autopsy report revealed that McDonald had been shot 16 times, nine in the back, countering police narratives that McDonald had lunged towards police. 

Smith filed a Freedom of Information Act for all the footage from McDonald’s interaction with police that day. It wasn’t until a judge ordered the city to release the footage on Nov. 19, 2015—409 days after McDonald was murdered—that the public became aware of what really happened.

McDonald’s death would further ignite an emerging Black liberation movement that was launched after the 2012 police killing of Rekia Boyd. The fallout from the McDonald case included the resignation of former CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy, Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez being voted out of office and the revelation of decades of racist police misconduct and excessive force in a 2017 U.S. Department of Justice report that resulted in a federal court-ordered consent decree

Fast forward to today, where a West Side community grieves Dexter Reed. The Johnson administration appears to be taking a different approach around transparency, accountability and justice. The administration released the body-camera footage at the family’s request

The city’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) released the footage and other materials on April 9, six weeks before its 60-day deadline. The footage revealed that police fired at Dexter Reed 96 times during a traffic stop. In addition, Johnson is engaging directly with West Side residents who are grieving Reed’s death. The 11th District, where Reed was killed, has the highest number and percentage of traffic stops — in 2023, nearly 10.5 percent of all traffic stops across the city took place in the district, which is a total of 56,301 stops. 

After holding an April 9 press conference alongside Kersten and Foxx, Johnson made multiple stops on Chicago’s West Side, meeting with faith and community leaders to listen to their concerns regarding Reed’s death and strategize around solutions for communities to heal and prevent another fatal police shooting. The mayor’s chief of staff, Cristina Pacione-Zayas and deputy of community safety, Garien Gatewood, joined him in talking to community members directly impacted by Reed’s death.

The Mayor’s Office and event organizers gave The TRiiBE access to attend those private meetings. No press photos were permitted.

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Mayor Johnson showed up at the West Side Justice Center. Click to view on Instagram.

At 1:30 p.m., organizers gathered with Johnson at his first stop at the West Side Justice Center,  a legal nonprofit in East Garfield Park. About 75 people from various community organizations attended the discussion, organized by E.A.T. Chicago (Equity And Transformation).

“​​The intention for this event was to be able to not only pull community together but to be able to address what happened and then also have a sense of healing,” E.A.T. program director Alonzo Waheed told The TRiiBE.

The space was filled with organizers from multiple neighborhoods, and there was food, music and an overall spirit of fellowship. 

In speaking about Chicago police fatally shooting Reed, Waheed said, “that was harm that occurred in our community. That was trauma inflicted on our community. So this is community coming together to address that and to say, this is how we feel instead of keeping that bottled in.” 

Waheed moderated the conversation and asked Johnson questions prepared by organizers before the meeting. One question was whether Johnson had “discussed the utility of pretextual stops with police and how they improve community safety.” 

“There’s a lot of work that we still have to do to make sure that the transition report, particularly around community safety, comes to complete fruition,” Johnson said, referring to his 2023 report that included his administration’s goals and policy initiatives around issues such as community safety.

Johnson’s public safety committee outlined recommendations in the 2023 transition report that include ending the gang database and ShotSpotter, investing in the Peace Book ordinance and Treatment Not Trauma, expediting compliance of the CPD consent decree and ending CPD’s historic pattern of misconduct. 

“I will have even more substantive conversations with our police superintendent around the deployment of these TAC [police tactical units]. Quite frankly, it is well past time that we shift our policy to reflect the values of my administration,” Johnson said

“Of course, there are some state laws that have been in rumblings for some time, but there are some local things that we should be looking at. There will be specific asks from individuals in this room about how we organize our alders around shifting away from these TAC units [police tactical units],” he added.

The mayor also took questions from the audience as Waheed passed a microphone around the room.

“What are your plans for being there for Dexter’s family, and how will you show up for them,” asked Christina Lorenzo, a post-release support coordinator at the Chicago Community Bond Fund.

“It’s building systems of care that can sustain children all the way through not just their maturation but their full purpose,” Johnson said. 

Johnson learned from Reed’s family that during high school, he arrived at Westinghouse daily from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and had the support of coaches, teachers, and friends. Reed’s family said he had aspired to be a sportscaster and loved basketball. 

“[Reed] had a system of care built around him, and that system was available for him. Once he left high school, that system began to dissipate,” Johnson said. “My budget is speaking to building those systems of care across departments and agencies and also partnering with our corporate leaders as well. They do have a responsibility to make sure that children, young men like Dexter, have systems built around them that allow them to build their purpose.” 

Johnson’s responses to the questions were well received by organizers. “I appreciate the mayor’s quick response and him being ahead of this. I haven’t seen no other mayor, in my lifetime, respond this way,” Waheed said, referring to Johnson meeting with the community face to face. 

“I also love the fact that he addressed the harms that were committed before his administration. We’re not in this situation because of his administration, but we are going to hold him accountable.” 

Johnson then went to New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, just before 3:00 p.m., where Cy Fields is the senior pastor. 

The Reed family’s pastor, John Abercrombie of Zoe Life Ministries, Rev. Ira Acree of Greater St. John Bible Church and Dr. Marshall Hatch of New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church were among some of the faith leaders in the room. There were also representatives from community organizations, including the Institute for Nonviolence, Breakthrough Urban Ministries and the Alliance of Local Service Organizations. In total, there were about 50 people present at the meeting, which lasted about an hour.

When he arrived at the church, Johnson gave opening remarks reiterating his administration’s priorities: ensuring a full and thorough investigation of Reed’s death and remaining accountable and transparent. After that, he fielded five questions from longtime faith leaders. The conversation’s goal was to explore the faith community’s role in responding and supporting the community at this moment.

“Today is about putting our arms around the family and their needs,” Johnson said, referring to Reed’s family.

One attendee, a pastor who leads a South Side congregation, expressed concerns about what CPD Supt. Larry Snelling said about the shooting during a Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability meeting on April 8.

He said, referring to Snelling, “He made a statement. ‘When you see the video, you make your own decision.’ I think that’s adding fuel to the fire, and it sets a whole lot of people off because now, when they see this and they make their own decision, it can create a volatile situation. When he made that statement, it came off as very insensitive.”

 Johnson said that he had talked to Snelling about his comments and reiterated that CPD would cooperate with COPA. 

“Supt. Snelling and his entire team, along with my office, are fully cooperating with COPA during this investigation. You should fully expect that the Chicago Police Department will be transparent, and we’ll also call for accountability,” Johnson said.  

Some community members left the meeting feeling that Johnson’s engagement with the community on the same day as the video release was a step in the right direction.

“I do feel that it’s an act of good faith to come out with community right when something happens. So they’re not searching for answers,” LIVE FREE Illinois lead organizer Artinese Myrick told The TRiiBE. She attended Johnson’s second community meeting at Landmark Baptist Church. “I’m just hoping that this type of transparency and accountability can continue,” she added.

(L to R): Dexter Reed's sister, Porscha Banks, and mother, Nicole Banks (center), speak with their attorney, Andrew M. Stroth, during an April 9, 12:00 p.m. press conference at COPA headquarters following the public release of body-camera footage in the March 21 fatal police shooting of Reed. Photo by Tyger Ligon for The TRiiBE®

For Reed’s family and community organizations who’ve long organized against police violence, healing and accountability look like holding CPD accountable by firing the four officers involved in Reed’s death, ending racial profiling, and offering trauma and mental health support for Reed’s family. 

At an April 9, 12:00 p.m. press conference at COPA headquarters, Reed’s family — alongside their attorney Andrew M. Stroth and community-based organizations that work against police violence and for Black liberation—spoke about seeing the CPD video of Reed’s fatal shooting for the first time on April 8. 

“What we witnessed on the video that we watched with the family yesterday was tactical officers in plain clothes, in an unmarked SUV, wearing hoodies and baseball caps, pulling over Dexter for not wearing a seatbelt,” Stroth said at the press conference. 

“These officers never announced they were police officers and then we witnessed Dexter get out of his car unarmed and he was shot by the police,” he added. 

“Regardless of who they try to portray him as, Dexter was so well-mannered and respectful,” Reed’s sister, Porscha Banks, said during the press conference. “Why do the police keep doing this to young Black men? If he was supposed to be pulled over for a traffic stop, why did they have four guns pointed at him? He was scared, and after he was already on the ground dead, instead of checking to see was he breathing, they cuffed him.” 

Banks told The TRiiBE that she last spoke to her brother at 3:45 p.m. on March 21, when he picked up their six-year-old niece from school. The police traffic stop that ended in his death happened a little over two hours later at 6:02 p.m. 

Even though Reed was three years younger than her, Banks said he would act like the oldest. 

“He always made sure that I was okay and that I focused on my health, making sure that I was okay, that I was good, and that I was keeping things in order as a big sister. As an uncle, he really loved my niece and made sure she was picked up from school,” she said. “That was my last memory of him. He beat me to her school and picked her up, so that was my last time seeing him.”

Now that the video and other evidence have been released, Reed’s family and attorneys believe Johnson will maintain his commitment to transparency and accountability, a contrast to what other families of Black and brown Chicagoans who have been killed in police shootings have expressed under previous mayoral administrations. 

“We also believe that Mayor Brandon Johnson is committed to change. We believe that under his leadership, Chicago can change,” Stroth said, referring to Johnson. “He spoke with the family on Saturday afternoon, and he committed to a full and transparent investigation.”

is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.