Justice Department to Investigate Chicago Police After Laquan McDonald Case

Stephen A. Crockett Jr.
Demonstrators protest outside the office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel following a press conference Dec. 1, 2015, during which the mayor announced the firing of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy over the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Updated Monday, Dec. 7, 12:10 p.m. EST: U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday that the Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department following the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald. 

The investigation will determine whether the 17-year-old's shooting death was an isolated incident or the latest development in a larger pattern of officers violating civil rights, NBC Chicago reports.


According to the news station, the investigation will focus on the department's use of force and whether there are "racial, ethnic or other disparities" in how force is used.

"When community members feel ignored, let down or mistreated by public safety officials, there are profound consequences to the well-being of their communities," Lynch said, according to NBC Chicago. "We are looking to see whether or not the Police Department in a systematic matter has used constitutional practices."

Embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement praising the investigation: "I welcome today's announcement by the Department of Justice and pledge the City’s complete cooperation. Our mutual goal is to create a stronger, better Police Department that keeps the community safe while respecting the civil rights of every Chicagoan.

"Nothing is more important to me than the safety and well-being of our residents and ensuring that the men and women of our Police Department have the tools, resources and training they need to be effective crime fighters, stay safe, and build community trust," the statement continued.



The Justice Department is expected to announce the launch of a wide-ranging civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department, which has been under a national spotlight for its handling of the Laquan McDonald case, in which a white police officer fatally shot the teen 16 times. 


According to the Associated Press, the announcement could come as early as this week, and the probe is expected to examine the "patterns and practices" of the department to determine whether officers and officials systematically violated constitutional rights.

On Nov. 24, Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in Laquan’s death, more than a year after the fatal shooting, and only after protesters demanded that dash-cam footage of the fatal encounter be released.


In the video, Laquan can be seen walking down the middle of a street. He is reportedly carrying a knife when Van Dyke exits the patrol car and opens fire. Laquan falls to the pavement, and the officer continues to fire his weapon a reported 16 times, according to AP. The news site also notes that there is no sound in the video, which has not been explained by the city, since dashboard cameras are set to record audio.

AP notes that following the October 2014 shooting, the Chicago City Council approved a $5 million settlement with Laquan's family—before the family filed a lawsuit. City officials also fought to suppress the video's release.


Protesters have accused the city of covering up the shooting, and on Friday the city released hundreds of pages of documents that indicated that several officers' accounts of the shooting differed from the video footage.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office didn't respond to a request for comment regarding the reports released last week and the reported federal investigation, AP reports. Since the video's release, Emanuel has "forced Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to resign and formed a task force to examine the department in an effort to calm the city and deal with the most serious crisis of his administration," AP reports.


The Rev. Jesse Jackson told AP that he welcomes the investigation and hopes that the focus is not only on the Police Department but also on Emanuel's office and the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.

"All three of them—the police, City Hall and the prosecutor's office—are suspect," Jackson said. "We cannot trust them."


Read more at the Associated Press

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