Jus­tice re­port re­bukes Chicago po­lice

Ex­ces­sive force seen as a re­sult of bad prac­tices

Houston Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Michael Tarm and Don Babwin

A year­long civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion sparked by the shoot­ing death of a black teenager finds the depart­ment fre­quently uses ex­ces­sive force and that of­fi­cers aren’t suf­fi­ciently trained or sup­ported.

CHICAGO — The Jus­tice Depart­ment on Fri­day laid bare years of civil rights vi­o­la­tions by Chicago po­lice, blast­ing the na­tion’s se­cond-largest 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 year­long 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 who were ac­cused of mis­con­duct were rarely in­ves­ti­gated or dis­ci­plined.

Un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, the gov­ern­ment has con­ducted 25 civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tions of po­lice de­part­ments, in­clud­ing those in Cleve­land, Bal­ti­more and Seat­tle.

Asked about the in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s fu­ture, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch said talks be­tween the city and the gov­ern­ment would go on re­gard­less “of who is at the top of the Jus­tice Depart­ment.”

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 New York and Los Angeles.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment be­gan the Chicago in­ves­ti­ga­tion in De­cem­ber 2015 af­ter the re­lease of dash­cam 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.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors de­scribed a class for of­fi­cers on the use of force that showed a video made 35 years ago — be­fore key U.S. Supreme Court rul­ings that af­fected po­lice prac­tices na­tion­wide. When in­struc­tors spoke fur­ther on the topic, sev­eral re­cruits did not ap­pear to be pay­ing at­ten­tion and at least one was sleep­ing, the re­port said.

Getty Im­ages

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch re­leased the re­port with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

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