Officers within the Chicago Police Department have a history of using “excessive force,” and other “unlawful conduct,” the United States Justice Department found in blistering 166-page report released Friday (Jan. 13).
The report concluded a 13-month impartial investigation in which the DOJ reviewed thousands of documents from the CPD, as well as interviewed “current and former officers” in Chicago, members of the community, and more.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch expounded on the findings at a news conference in Chicago, flanked by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
“My highest priority as attorney general is to ensure that every American enjoys police protection that is lawful, responsive and transparent,” Lynch said. “But as the events of recent years in Ferguson, Baltimore, Cleveland, and many other cities have made clear, far too many Americans feel that they do no receive that kind of law enforcement and far too many communities suffer because of painful divisions between police officers and citizens.”
The investigation was initiated after the release of dash cam footage leading up to the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, an unarmed teen who was gunned down by CPD in 2014. McDonald’s murder sparked protests in the city.
“We found further that CPD officers’ force practices unnecessarily endanger themselves and others and result in unnecessary and avoidable shootings and other uses of force,” the DOJ report reads.
Amid the CPDs longstanding reputation of misconduct and lack of accountability, including instances of officers lying to protect each other (even under oath), the DOJ provided perhaps the most detailed synopsis of the department’s personal contribution to the corruption and rampant violence in the city.
For example, CPD officers were found to engage in “unnecessary foot pursuits,” that “often” resulted in cops “shooting someone” including unarmed citizens. Cops used excessive force as a form of retaliation, tasered an unarmed naked 65-year-old mentally ill woman, and intentionally dropped young gang members off in a rival territories.
The reports goes on to note a ”routinely abusive behavior within CPD, especially toward black and Latino residents of Chicago’s most challenged neighborhoods,” as well as a “low morale” within the department as a whole.
Furthermore, the DOJ points out the CPD fails to “meaningfully and routinely review or investigate officers use of force” and is therefore “perpetuating the practices that result in the pattern of unlawful conduct.”
The report adds that CPD officers endangered themselves and the safety of the public by routinely discharging their weapons without reason, failing to wait for back up, and using “unsound tactics” when approaching vehicles. The DOJ also exposed CPD officers for using “unreasonable force” against children.
“Among the most egregious use of deadly force we reviewed were incidents in which CPD officers shot at suspects who presented no immediate threat,” the report states. “CPD’s use of less-lethal force also contributes to the pattern of unlawful conduct we found. We received instances of CPD using less-lethal force, often Tasers including in drive-stun mode against people who posed no threat, and using unreasonably retaliatory force and unreasonable force against children. We found also that CPD officers use force against people in mental health crisis where force might have been avoided.”
In the five years prior to the DOJ investigation, the city of Chicago received over 30,000 complaints of police misconduct, yet less than 2 percent resulted in disciplinary action.
For its part, the CPD is attempting to “correct a number of deficiencies related to how officers used and are held accountable for force.”
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