The US Department of Justice is launching an investigation into alleged civil rights violations by the Chicago Police Department, after national outrage erupted over video footage showing a police officer’s fatal shooting of a black teenager in 2014.
“Specifically, we will examine a number of issues related to the CPD’s use of force, including its use of deadly force; racial, ethnic and other disparities in its use of force; and its accountability mechanisms, such as its disciplinary actions and its handling of allegations of misconduct,” said US attorney general Loretta Lynch.
US police forces are under increasing scrutiny for their use of force after incidents such as the fatal shootings of 18 year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio.
In Chicago, dash-cam footage of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s death was made public only after a freelance journalist discovered the tape and a judge ordered its release more than a year after the incident. It showed McDonald walking away from a group of officers when they repeatedly shot him, with multiple bullets fired into his body even as he lay on the ground. First-degree murder charges have been filed against police officer Jason Van Dyke in the case.
Critics have accused the city of trying to cover up the police department’s actions that night—and perhaps a host of other abuses as well. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, facing accusations of complicity in delaying the tape’s release, fired the city police chief last week. He said today (Dec. 7) that he “welcomes” the federal government’s forthcoming investigation.
Several politicians and community leaders requested the investigation, Lynch said. Among them, according to the Associated Press, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
In a separate case today, Chicago prosecutors opted not to file criminal charges against another police officer who fatally shot a man while he was running away, saying that a dash-cam video and other evidence showed that the dead man, Ronald Johnson, was carrying a gun.