Re­port finds Chicago po­lice rou­tinely used ex­ces­sive force

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - NEWS - MICHAEL TARM CHICAGO DON BABWIN

The U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment on Fri­day ex­posed years of civil rights vi­o­la­tions by Chicago po­lice, blast­ing the coun­try’s third­largest depart­ment for us­ing ex­ces­sive force that in­cluded shoot­ing at peo­ple who did not pose a threat and us­ing stun guns on oth­ers only be­cause they re­fused to fol­low com­mands.

The re­port was is­sued af­ter a year-long in­ves­ti­ga­tion sparked by the 2014 death of a black teenager who was shot 16 times by a white of­fi­cer. The fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion looked broadly at law-en­force­ment prac­tices, con­clud­ing that of­fi­cers were not suf­fi­ciently trained or sup­ported and that many of those who were ac­cused of mis­con­duct were rarely in­ves­ti­gated or dis­ci­plined.

The find­ings come just a week be­fore a change in ad­min­is­tra­tion that could re­order pri­or­i­ties at the Jus­tice Depart­ment. Un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, the gov­ern­ment has con­ducted 25 civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tions of po­lice de­part­ments, in­clud­ing those in Cleve­land, Bal­ti­more and Seat­tle.

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s po­si­tion on the fed­eral re­view process is un­clear. His nom­i­nee to be at­tor­ney-gen­eral has ex­pressed am­biva­lence about the sys­tem.

Chicago of­fi­cers en­dan­gered civil­ians, caused avoid­able in­juries and deaths and eroded com­mu­nity trust that is “the cor­ner­stone of pub­lic safety,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s civil rights divi­sion.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s rec­om­men­da­tions fol­low an es­pe­cially bloody year on Chicago streets. The city logged 762 homi­cides in 2016, the high­est tally in 20 years and more than the com­bined to­tal of the two largest U.S. cities – New York and Los Angeles.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment be­gan the Chicago in­ves­ti­ga­tion in De­cem­ber, 2015, af­ter the re­lease of dash-cam video show­ing the fa­tal shoot­ing of 18-year-old Laquan McDon­ald, who was walk­ing away from po­lice hold­ing a small folded knife. The video of the shoot­ing, which the city fought to keep se­cret, in­spired large protests and cost the city’s po­lice com­mis­sioner his job.

The re­port “con­firms what civil rights lawyers have been say­ing for decades,” said at­tor­ney Matt Topic, who helped lead the le­gal fight for the re­lease of the McDon­ald video. “It is mo­men­tous and pretty re­ward­ing to see that fi­nally con­firmed by the U.S. gov­ern­ment.”

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