Police abuse rampant, probe finds
CHICAGO — Chicago police have violated the constitutional rights of residents for years, permitting racial bias against blacks, using excessive force and shooting people who did not pose immediate threats, the Justice Department announced Friday after a yearlong investigation.
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 report blamed “systemic deficiencies” within the department and the city, including insufficient training and a failure to hold bad officers accountable for misconduct.
The Justice Department began investigating the nation’s third-largest police force in December 2015 after the release of dashcam video showing a white officer shooting black teenager Laquan McDonald, who was hit 16 times as he walked away from police holding a small folded knife. The video of the 2014 shooting, which the city fought to keep secret, inspired protests and cost the city’s police commissioner his job.
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.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the results of the investigation were “sobering” and pledged to make changes beyond those already adopted.
Chicago has spent more than half a billion dollars to settle claims of police misconduct since 2004, but police did not conduct disciplinary investigations in half of those cases, according to the federal report. Of 409 police shootings that happened over a five-year period, police found only two were unjustified.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (right) calls the findings “sobering” and promises to make reforms.