Feds to investigate Chicago Police for possible Civil Rights violations

By John Dempsey, WLS-AM 890 News

(CHICAGO) U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that the U.S. Department of Justice has officially opened a civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department.

The Police department has been under fire for the handling of a case involving black teenager LaQuan McDonald, who was shot and killed by white police officer Jason Van Dyke in October of 2014.  Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder.

Lynch told reporters in Washington, “Today, I’m here to announce that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether the Chicago Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the constitution, or Federal law.  We will examine a number of issues related to the Chicago Police Department’s use of force, including it’s use of deadly force, racial, ethnic and other disparities in it’s use of force, and it’s accountability mechanisms”.

Lynch says all citizens of Chicago, “Deserve law enforcement that is effective, responsive, respectful and most importantly constitutional.  When community members feel that they are not receiving that kind of policing, when they feel ignored, let down, or mistreated by public safety officials, there are profound consequences for the well being of their communities”.

Mayor Emanuel has been under fire since the release of the McDonald video.  Last week he rejected calls for a Federal investigation of Chicago Police, calling it “misguided”.  But then one day later Emanuel changed course and said he welcomed the investigation.   Monday morning, Emanuel released the following statement:

“I welcome today’s announcement by the Department of Justice and pledge the City’s complete cooperation. Our mutual goal is to create a stronger, better Police Department that keeps the community safe while respecting the civil rights of every Chicagoan. Nothing is more important to me than the safety and well-being of our residents and ensuring that the men and women of our Police Department have the tools, resources and training they need to be effective crime fighters, stay safe, and build community trust.”

In the wake of the release of the McDonald video, Emanuel fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.  Emanuel has also ousted Scott Ando as the Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority, which has been criticized for not taking more decisive action against officers accused of misconduct.   Emanuel is replacing Ando with Sharon Fairley, who is currently First Deputy and General Counsel of the city’s Office of the Inspector General after having served as an Assistant United States Attorney for eight years.

In addition to the Civil Rights probe Lynch announced, she also confirmed that the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois is investigating the McDonald shooting itself.   Chicago U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon, who stood by Lynch at the press conference, refused to elaborate on his investigation, how long it will take, or whether it could result in obstruction of justice charges against the officers who were at the scene of the McDonald shooting.  This past weekend, we learned those officers wrote reports that supported Van Dyke’s version of the story that McDonald was charging towards him with a knife, a fact that the video shows did not happen.

The Federal civil rights investigation is similar to ones recently undertaken in other cities, including Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.    It could result in the Chicago Police being forced to operate under the terms of a court order, if the federal probe finds Chicago Police have violated the U.S. Constitution.


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