Feds Chicago PD probe: Chicago Police Investigation
Published: December 7, 2015
Feds Chicago PD probe: Chicago Police Investigation, The Justice Department will investigate the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday, nearly two weeks after the release of a video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times and ahead of the expected release of similar footage in another death at the hands of an officer.
Lynch said the investigation will focus in particular on use of force and deadly force, including racial, ethnic and other disparities in use of force, and its systems of accountability. It was opened after a preliminary review, she said.
“We understand that the same systems that fail community members also fail conscientious officers by creating mistrust between law enforcement and the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect,” said Lynch, who was joined by Zachary Fardon, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, and Vanita Gupta, the head of Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“This mistrust from members of the community makes it more difficult to gain help with investigations, to encourage victims and witnesses of crimes to speak up, and to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of public safety officials,” she said. “And when suspicion and hostility is allowed to fester, it can erupt into unrest.”
The civil rights probe follows recent ones in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, and comes as the police department and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are under intense scrutiny over their handling of the October 2014 death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder Nov. 24, more than a year after the killing and just hours before the release of police dashboard camera footage showing the officer shooting the teenager.
Emanuel, who initially said a federal civil rights investigation would be “misguided” but later reversed course, said in a news release after Lynch’s announcement that his goal is to create a stronger and better police force “that keeps the community safe while respecting the civil rights of every Chicagoan.”
The McDonald video shows the teen veering away from officers on a four-lane street when Van Dyke, seconds after exiting his squad car, opens fire from close range. The officer continues shooting after McDonald crumples to the ground and is barely moving. The video does not include sound, which authorities have not explained.
The Chicago City Council signed off on a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family even before the family filed a lawsuit, and city officials fought in court for months to keep the video from being released publicly. The city’s early efforts to suppress its release coincided with Emanuel’s re-election campaign, when the mayor was seeking African-American votes in a tight race.
Since the release of the video, Emanuel forced Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to resign and formed a task force to examine the police department. But the calls for the mayor to resign – something he said he won’t do – have grown louder from protesters, including the voices of more than 200 people during a march Sunday. Protesters counted to 16, in reference to the shots fired.
Politicians, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, have called for the federal civil rights investigation. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he was pleased with the decision and added that he hoped the investigation would focus not only on the police department, but on Emanuel’s office and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, which he and others have criticized for taking so long to bring charges against Van Dyke.
“All three of them – the police, City Hall and the prosecutor’s office – are suspect,” Jackson said. “We cannot trust them.”
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