Sun, Jan 15, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Police violated rights for years: report

‘SOBERING’:Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowed to reform the city’s police force following the report on violence and the highest number of homicides in 20 years


The US Department of Justice on Friday laid bare years of civil rights violations by Chicago police, blasting the nation’s second-largest police 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 year-long 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 policing and concluded 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 department.

Under US President Barack Obama, the government has conducted 25 civil rights investigations of police departments, including those in Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; and Seattle.

US president-elect Donald Trump’s position on the federal review process is unclear. His nominee for attorney general has expressed reservations about the system, especially the reliance on courts to bring about changes.

The federal government’s recommendations follow an especially bloody year on Chicago streets. The city logged 762 homicides last year, the highest tally in 20 years and more than the combined total of the two largest US cities — New York and Los Angeles.

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 department’s Civil Rights Division.

The investigation began in December 2015 after the release of footage showing the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was walking away from police holding a small folded knife. The video, which the city fought to keep secret, inspired large protests and cost the city’s police commissioner his job.

Friday’s 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 footage. “It is momentous and pretty rewarding to see that finally confirmed by the US government.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the results of the investigation were “sobering” and pledged to make changes beyond those already adopted.

Federal authorities and city officials have signed an agreement that offers a broad outline for reform, including commitments to improved transparency, training and accountability for bad officers.

A statement issued with the report said investigators “identified serious concerns about the prevalence of racially discriminatory conduct by some CPD [Chicago Police Department] officers and the degree to which that conduct is tolerated.”

Black Lives Matter activists said they do not trust Emanuel to make real changes.

“I don’t believe him any more than I believed him when he said that he never saw the Laquan McDonald video before the public saw it,” said Arewa Karen Winters, who said she was the great-aunt of 16-year-old Pierre Loury, who was fatally shot by police last year.

Kofi Ademola said he was heartened by many of the government’s conclusions, but added that with the Trump administration taking over, “we have no idea how this is going to play out.”

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