Re­port says Chicago po­lice vi­o­lated civil rights for years

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - NATION -

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.

TERESA CRAW­FORD/As­so­ci­ated Press

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Fri­day in Chicago.

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