Chicago’s police officers have 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 Department of Justice.
The DOJ initiated the investigation after the Chicago police fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014, kicking off months of protests, a charge of first-degree murder for the offending officer, and the resignation of Chicago’s police superintendent after video of the shooting emerged.
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, the report said.
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 the Chicago police “unnecessarily endanger themselves and others and result in unnecessary and avoidable shootings.” The report said the “unlawful” use of force “resulted from a collection of poor police practices,” including exhibiting “poor discipline” when discharging weapons, engaging in “tactically unsound” foot pursuits, firing at vehicles “without justification,” and failing to wait for backup before engaging suspects. Among what the report called the most “egregious” that were investigated were instances of police officers 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 neighborhoods, which it said put the teenagers 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 most likely more “widespread” than the report suggests.
- Getty/Joshua Lott
The report concluded that the Chicago police had “engaged in a pattern” of practicing “unreasonable” force that it said was in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. The report described “deficiencies” within the Chicago police system, including in regard to 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 and develop “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 across the city, and overhaul field training programs.
2016 was one of the deadliest years in Chicago history, with 762 homicides recorded. It was the highest spike in two decades and more homicides than Los Angeles and New York combined.
Reuters contributed to this report.