Chicago’s police routinely used excessive force in violation of the US Constitution, according to a scathing report released by the federal government Friday.
The 161-page document details a 13-month civil-rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department conducted by the Justice Department.
The DOJ initiated the investigation after Chicago police fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, kicking off months of protests, a first-degree murder charge for the offending officer, and the resignation of Chicago’s police superintendent.
McDonald’s death was widely viewed as a “tipping point” over longstanding concerns about the Chicago Police Department’s conduct, as well as the city’s mechanisms for “detecting and correcting” the unlawful use of force, according to the report.
Here are some of the key points of the report:
- The report found that Chicago police officers “engage in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable,” and that Chicago police “unnecessarily endanger themselves and others and result in unnecessary and avoidable shootings.”
- According to the report, the “unlawful” use of force “resulted from a collection of poor police practices,” including exhibiting “poor discipline” when discharging their weapons, “tactically unsound” foot pursuits, officers shooting at vehicles “without justification,” and failing to wait for backup before engaging suspects.
- Among the most “egregious” incidents investigated in the report are instances of Chicago police shooting at unarmed suspects who “presented no immediate threat,” and police officers using “unreasonable retaliatory force” against children. The report also detailed incidents in which teenagers were picked up by officers and dropped off in rival gang neighbourhoods, which it said put the teenager’s life in “immediate jeopardy.”
- The report also found that many officers’ accounts of “force incidents” were later discredited by video evidence, indicating that the “pattern of unreasonable force” is likely more “widespread” than the report suggests.
The report concluded that the CPD has “engaged in a pattern” of practicing “unreasonable” force that it said was in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. The report pointed a finger at “deficiencies” within the Chicago police system, including officer training, supervision, and accountability.
The report recommends that the Chicago police mandate the use of body cameras on all officers by the end of 2017, along with developing “community policing” as a core component the department’s strategy. Further, the report recommends that the Chicago police department focus on officer wellness, improve data collection and transparency city-wide, and overhaul field training programs.
This past year, 2016 was one of the deadliest years in Chicago history, with 762 homicides recorded. It’s the highest spike in two decades, and more homicides than Los Angeles and New York combined.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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