Friday, January 13, 2017

Chicago police: guilty of routinely violating civil rights

“Racism is man's gravest threat to man -- the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” — Abraham Joshua Heschel, Polish-born American rabbi and a leading Jewish theologian and Jewish philosopher of the 20th century

ARE YOU at all surprised by the results of the US Justice Department's 13-month investigation of the Chicago Police Department? Perhaps by the extent of the discrimination against and mistreatment of people of color, but certainly not by the nature of the abuse of power and breach of civil rights.

The official inquiry was instigated in part by two journalists, an attorney, the Illinois Attorney General and a Cook County judge having to force the Chicago PD to release a video of police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was black, 16 times October 20, 2014, from a distance of about 10 feet.

Laguan McDonald

I've attached a (well-documented) timeline from Wikipedia summarizing the persistence and effort necessary to secure the release of the video, illustrating how tenaciously police departments fight to coverup their own actionable behavior.

Below that is the New York Times article about the the DOJ report. The NYT piece has six charts that illustrate the ubiquity of the claims filed against the Chicago Police Department. I hope you'll take the time to study them, particularly charts four, five and six. When you see the icon representing complaints against Van Dyke surrounded by a see of hundreds like it, you get a much more visceral sense of how pervasive and unconscionable the abuse is.

And below the charts, is the video of Laquan being shot 16 times to his death — if you can stomach watching it. I couldn't.

Wikipedia: Reporters noted inconsistencies between the narrative police told reporters, the autopsy, and an anonymous eye-witness account before the video was publicly released. After a whistle-blower expressed concern over the handling of the McDonald shooting a few weeks after the shooting, revealing "that there was a video and that it was horrific" to journalist Jamie Kalven and attorney Craig Futterman, Kalven and Futterman released a statement calling on Chicago police to release the dash-cam video of the incident. The city of Chicago denied at least 15 requests for its release. 

Brandon Smith, a freelance journalist, filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act on May 26 and filed a lawsuit in August against the city when his request was denied. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent a letter to the Police Department the day before a court hearing stating they cannot withhold the video and that their claim that releasing the video would interfere with an ongoing investigation or jeopardize a fair trial was unsubstantiated. On November 19, Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama denied the city's request for a stay and ordered that the video be released to the public no later than November 25. The city did not appeal the judge's decision and on November 24, after a press conference, the video showing police killing McDonald was released.

Chicago Police Routinely Trampled on Civil Rights, Justice Dept. Says

By Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith

January. 13, 2017

CHICAGO — The Chicago police have systemically violated the civil rights of residents by routinely using excessive force, a practice that particularly affects African-Americans and Latinos, the Justice Department said in a scathing report released on Friday, unveiling the findings of a 13-month investigation into the city’s police department.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch also announced at the federal courthouse in downtown Chicago detailed steps the city had committed to take to remedy the problems.

“The systems and policies that fail ordinary citizens also fail the vast majority of Chicago Police Department officers who risk their lives every day to serve and protect the people of Chicago,” said Ms. Lynch, who had raced to complete the investigation before the end of President Obama’s term.

“With this announcement, we are laying the groundwork for the difficult but necessary work of building a stronger, safer, and more united Chicago for all who call it home,” Ms. Lynch said.

By negotiating an agreement with Chicago to fix the problems, the Justice Department has laid the groundwork for change regardless of what happens under President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump’s attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has said he believes that many of the police department overhauls sought by the Obama administration went too far and unfairly maligned officers. He also has spoken against the court-enforced settlements, known as consent decrees, that usually result from investigations like the one in Chicago.

With the statement announced on Friday, the Justice Department has put the city’s problems on the record and set in motion a process — albeit one that may be less easy to enforce — for change, even if the Trump administration does not seek a consent decree with Chicago.

Ms. Lynch said the report set in motion a process that would go forward “regardless of who sits atop the Justice Department,” a statement echoed by Mayor Emanuel, who added that was city was committed to reaching an consent agreement.

Chicago’s announcement came only a day after the Justice Department and city leaders in Baltimore announced an agreement that called for greater oversight of the police department there, as well as improved training and safety technology. The consent decree came in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who died of a spinal cord injury in 2015 while in the custody of the Baltimore police.

Chicago officials have been bracing for the findings from the Justice Department after more than a year of tense public debate about the police and its long, troubled history of community relations, particularly with African-American and Latino residents. Announced in December 2015, the investigation came in a year of cascading violence for the city. Shootings and murders rose significantly. In 2016, there were 762 homicides in Chicago, more than New York City and Los Angeles combined and more than this city has experienced in 20 years.

The inquiry was spurred by the city’s reluctant release of a chilling video that showed a white police officer shooting a young black man, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. For months, the city had fought to keep the dashboard camera footage from being made public, but a judge ultimately ordered its released. Residents were outraged by the images, some marching in protest and demanding that Mr. Emanuel resign.

Long before the Justice Department’s findings, the critiques of the Chicago police were stark. Two years ago, the city announced reparations and an apology to black men who had for years said they were tortured and abused at the hands of a “Midnight Crew” of officers overseen by a notorious police commander in the 1970s and 1980s. Last year, a task force appointed by Mr. Emanuel issued a blistering report that concluded that racism had contributed to a long pattern of institutional failures by the police.

“C.P.D.’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” the task force wrote. “Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again.”

As Chicago awaited the Justice Department’s announcement, city officials said that they were already making substantive changes at the department — separate from whatever the Justice Department would announce. Mr. Emanuel’s aides pointed to changes the mayor has called for in improved training and equipment. All Chicago patrol officers are to have body cameras by the end of 2017.

“As you can see from our actions over the past year, we are committed to continuing to make significant and much-needed reforms, providing officers with the tools and certainty they need to do their tough jobs well,” said Adam Collins, a spokesman for Mr. Emanuel.

But controversial police shootings have persisted, and some say the mayor’s changes have not come fast enough. Just weeks after the Justice Department began its investigation, an officer shot and killed two people: a teenager said to be wielding a bat, and an elderly neighbor hit by a stray bullet. That officer later sued the estate of the teenager he killed, claiming emotional trauma.

Last summer, another officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager in the back as he was running away.

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1 comment:

  1. You know what shows us the most? Of ALL the officers present, not a single ONE checked to see if he was alive, to provide first aid or just comfort. These murdered kids are left to die alone on filthy streets with no aid. McDonald was murdered for jaywalking, others for equally minor crimes. Now we will be swearing in a Racist in Chief next week and I can obly that things will get worse.