State: AG Madigan asks for fed probe of Chicago PD

By Mark Fitton
Illinois News Network

SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ attorney general is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Chicago Police Department.

In particular, Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants the department’s Civil Rights Division to look into:

  • The Chicago Police Department’s use of force, including deadly force;
  • The adequacy of CPD’s review and investigation of officers’ use of force and its investigations into allegations of police misconduct;
  • CPD’s training, equipment and supervision of its officers;
  • Whether there is a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing.

In her letter sent Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Madigan writes,”The shocking death of Laquan McDonald is the latest tragedy in our city that highlights serious questions about the use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse.”

“Trust in the Chicago Police Department is broken,” Madigan wrote. “Chicago cannot move ahead and rebuild trust between the police and the community without an outside, independent investigation into its police department to improve policing practices.”

Madigan cites five other high-profile cases of questionable use of deadly force instances or misconduct that took place over the last five years. Additionally, she raises questions about Chicago’s investigations into allegations of police misconduct, noting:

  • The city’s Independent Police Review Authority has investigated nearly 400 shootings since 2007 and found only one shooting to be unjustified.
  • Even after IPRA review, the city’s police superintendent and police board determine whether an officer is disciplined. Citing the Citizens Police Data Project, Madigan says that from 2011 to 2015, 97 percent of more than 28,500 citizen complaints resulted in no officer being punished.
  • The same data shows that over the past five years, white complainants were almost seven times more likely to have their police misconduct complaints sustained than African-Americans, even though African-Americans filed three times more complaints against police officers.

In a statement to the media, Madigan said she knows “the vast majority of officers in the Chicago Police Department serve with bravery, honor and integrity.”

Still, Madigan said, an investigation by the Justice Department is appropriate and necessary.

A Department of Justice spokeswoman said the attorney general’s letter would be reviewed.

Illinois News Network’s request for comment from the Chicago mayor’s office was not immediately answered.

Madigan’s letter to the Justice Department came on the same day Chicago’s police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, resigned at the request of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The mayor on Tuesday also announced the creation of the city’s own task force on police accountability.

Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in October 2014. Police at first said McDonald was shot as he came at officers while brandishing a knife.

It took a year and a judge’s order for the city to release dashboard camera video of the incident, and the video did not appear to support the original police version of events. It appears to show McDonald veering away from officers when he was shot 16 times by Van Dyke, the only officer who fired.

Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder, but only after the release of the video, which prompted accusations of a coverup and calls for the resignation of, among others, McCarthy, Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.

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