Report says Chicago police violated civil rights for years
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.
The findings come just a week before a change in administration that could reorder priorities at the Justice Department. Under Pres- ident 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 reservations about the system, especially the reliance on courts to bring about changes.
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 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 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.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the results of the investigation were “sobering.”
Chicago has spent more than half a billion dollars to settle claims of police misconduct since 2004.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks during a news conference Friday in Chicago.