By TONIA HILL
Following a year-long investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a detailed report Friday, Jan. 13, regarding the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and its practices and culture.
The investigation was launched following the release of a video showing a white police officer, Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting a black teenager Laquan McDonald in October of 2014. Van Dyke has since been charged with first-degree murder.
The 100-plus page report by the DOJ, found that the CPD officers, “engage in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, that is unreasonable. CPD officers’ force practices unnecessarily endanger themselves and others and result in unnecessary and avoidable shootings and other uses of force.”
The DOJ also claims that the CPD has not provided its officers with adequate training to understand how and when they may use force or how to deescalate encounters to reduce the need to use force, nor has the CPD held officers accountable when they use force or commit misconduct.
Other findings from the report state that:
- Officers engage in tactically unsound and unnecessary foot pursuits, and that these foot pursuits too often end with officers unreasonably shooting someone—including unarmed individuals.
- Officers shoot at vehicles without justification and in contradiction to CPD policy.
- Officers exhibit poor discipline when discharging their weapons and engage in tactics that endanger themselves and public safety.
The DOJ found that the most extreme uses of deadly force were incidents in which CPD officers shot at suspects who presented no immediate threat.
In a five-year span before the DOJ investigation the city received over 30,000 complaints of police misconduct but less than 2 percent were sustained and that resulted in no action or discipline in 98 percent of the complaints.
Since the launch of the investigation last year, the city has taken steps to address the mistrust amongst citizens and the CPD. In October, the city Council passed an ordinance getting rid of the Independent Police Review Authority (IRPA) and replacing it with the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA). The COPA will investigate police misconduct such as police shootings, verbal abuse and taser abuse.
Jamie Kalven, journalist and founder of the Hyde Park-based Invisible Institute,, sees the DOJ report as a significant step in reform and rebuilding at the CPD. He said future cases of police abuse can use the report as precedence.
“The report is going to have all sorts of legal ramifications and consequences,” Kalven said. “Any Civil Rights lawyer now bringing a civil rights suit on behalf of someone who alleges police abuse can draw on this report.”
The city and the DOJ agreed to enter negotiations about a court ordered consent decree that will help guide reform within the police department. A federal judge would have to sign off on the agreement before it goes into effect.
Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1) thinks more has to be done to guarantee that the city will implement the consent degree before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in next week.
“The actions of rogue officers and the inadequate department accountability systems under which they operate, require an immediate and comprehensive response,” Rush said. “We must demand the same response from the Justice Department as the City of Baltimore received. A consent decree must be implemented.”
Rush noted that he will meet with some of the city’s top constitutional lawyers over the next few days to bring a case to court that will result in the Justice Department being ordered to immediately institute a consent decree.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said the report acknowledges what many have said for years about the CPD. She said it is up to elected officials to ensure that the reforms and recommendations made by the DOJ are applied.
“These are not new claims against the Chicago Police Department,” Hairston said. “[The] Chicago Police Department has a rich history of doing this. Everybody is responsible for making sure that these things get implemented.”
Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. said that the scope of the report does not go far enough. In a written statement, Jackson said that federal departments of housing, labor, transportation and health, must also take a closer look at Chicago as well.
“With 80,000 vacant lots and buildings, with 50 closed public schools that have become eyesores and with eight “endangered communities” in Chicago drowning in sky high poverty and violence rates, we need a comprehensive report and not a one-shot report,” Jackson said.
He added that access to jobs, education, and housing, “will do more to end the scourge of violence than a million police officers.”
Last year, there was an increase in murders and shootings in Chicago. According to CPD, there were 3,551 shooting incidents and 4,331 shooting victims approximately 1,100 more than in 2015 according to the DOJ’s report.
There were 765 homicides, according to CPD, 300 more murders than the previous year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city is on its way to reform, “I want to be clear, the Chicago Police Department and the City of Chicago is already on the road to reform, and there are no U-Turns on that road, Emanuel said in a written statement.
Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said the CPD plans to implement more training and solutions to correct issues outlined in the DOJ report.
“We’re reinvigorating our entire training operation which will include modernized curriculum and the creation of a state-of-the-art training facility,” Johnson said. “We’re going to continue to enhance transparency by equipping every police officer on regular beat patrol with a body worn camera by the end of this year.”