Department of Justice Investigates Chicago PolicePublished: Jan 08, 2015, by in Criminal Defense, Police Brutality
US Attorney General Loretta Lynn announced on December 7th that the Justice Department will be conducting a civil rights investigation into the use of deadly force by Chicago cops.
In light of the recent shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald by Chicago policeman Jason Van Dyke, many see the investigation as a necessary step in holding the authorities fully responsible for the tragedy. But some—including two Chicago aldermen—think the investigation should also look into City Hall and the conduct of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his administration.
Indeed, it was only until a Chicago judge ordered Mayor Emanuel to release a video of the shooting that the prosecutor’s office decided to charge the responsible officer. Other videos of the incident have mysteriously disappeared, which seems to point to a cover-up attempt—possibly orchestrated within the highest levels of Chicago’s government.
Recent Shootings Highlight Problems Within the CPD
The police had good reason to apprehend Mr. McDonald—he was seen trying to break into vehicles. It later emerged that he had PCP in his system, which probably contributed to his erratic behavior. But nothing he did even came close to justifying the police’s use of deadly force against him.
The police are only allowed to use deadly force against a suspect when the suspect is putting the police or others at risk of death or serious injury. Jason Van Dyke reported that he shot Mr. McDonald because he moved threateningly towards the officers—five of whom corroborated Officer Van Dyke’s version of events.
But the video of Mr. McDonald’s shooting clearly shows that he did not pose an immediate threat to the officers or any bystanders. This means that the Chicago police are willing to lie to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions. In how many other, unreported cases has this occurred?
The Justice Department Will Conduct a Systematic Investigation of the CPD
While the recent shooting of Laquan McDonald clearly prompted the Justice Department to take action, their investigation will probe deeper than this recent shooting. They will conduct a systematic overview of every aspect of the Chicago Police Department.
In the wake of the McDonald shooting, Mayor Emanuel initially defended the police department and its superintendent, but once the video of the shooting became public, Emanuel backtracked. He fired the superintendent and acknowledged that the Chicago Police Department has a long history of excessive force, poor oversight, and lack of discipline.
The Independent Police Review Authority, or IPRA, a civilian agency tasked with the investigation of excessive force allegations against the police, has not been providing the oversight needed. Since its creation in 2007, the IPRA has only found that two out of more than 400 claims against the police were credible. The IPRA’s director, Scott Ando, has just resigned.
Chicago Has A Long History of Police Brutality
This spring, the Chicago city council voted to create a fund of over $5 million to compensate the victims of the police department’s use of torture under Jon Burge in the 1970s and 1980s.
Burge and his accomplices tortured hundreds of mostly African-American suspects, subjecting them to electric shocks, burns, and mock executions in order to extract confessions. Burge served four and a half years in prison before being released last year. He now receives a police pension.
Over the last forty years, the Chicago Police Department has built a legacy for violence and lack of accountability, and it is likely that more dark chapters of its history will come to light as the Justice Department’s investigation proceeds.
Michael S. O’Meara is a Chicago criminal defense lawyer dedicated to protecting his clients from the abuses of the criminal justice system. If you’re a victim of police brutality and want to talk to an attorney with more than 20 years of experience, you can call him today for a free consultation at 312-909-0706.