“Say her name” is a phrase perhaps most recently associated with the name Breonna Taylor, the Black medical worker shot to death by Louisville police during a botched raid on her apartment on March 13, 2020. Following the shooting, Ms. Taylor’s family wanted the world to know her story and remember her. They adopted the phrase #SayHerName, first coined during the 2015 African American Policy Forum vigil addressing Black women’s struggles against gendered racialized violence to indicate that Breonna’s life mattered.
While Black males who fall victim to police violence — e.g., Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice — become well known, Black women are often erased when met by violence and killing. At the very least, Taylor’s death served to increase awareness of flaws with the use of no-knock warrant practice.
Today, I’m inviting all who read this piece to say the name Ella French. If that name is only vaguely familiar, allow me to share the following:
Ella French, a 29-year-old Chicago police officer since April 2018 and a member of the department’s Community Safety Team, was shot and killed the night of Saturday, Aug. 7, during a routine traffic stop of a vehicle with expired tags. Ms. French is the first female Chicago police officer killed in the line of duty since 1988. Her male partner was shot three times and was last reported as being in hospital in critical condition.
Consistently, subsequent reports from fellow officers affirm that Ella had all the qualities one would want in a police officer. She always wanted to make a difference.
Ella was a proponent of psychotherapy and social work as means to reduce criminal incarceration. Her brother Andrew French told a Chicago Tribune reporter that his sister was a person of integrity who “always believed in people and believed in doing the right thing…She believed in taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”
Ella’s funeral service was held Aug. 19, at St. Rita of Cascia Church. Cardinal Blasé Cupich delivered the homily. Ella was buried Saturday, Aug. 21.
Her mother, who had adopted Ella when a child, addressed those in attendance saying, “I have two children, Ella and Andrew. They are my heart. Today, I am here with half my heart.”
Footnote: A memorial to this fallen police officer had been erected in the lobby of the Thompson Center, a state-owned office building in downtown Chicago. An individual was recorded trying to topple the memorial and trashing a photo of Officer French.
Ella French dedicated her life to making a difference for others. I wish there was more time in which I could get to know her. May she rest in peace. I, for one, will continue to say her name.