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Chicago Police Have Violated Civil Rights for Years, According to Justice Department Report

After a yearlong investigation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has violated the civil rights of Chicago residents for years. The DOJ began its investigation on the CPD after the release of dashcam video showing an officer shooting Laquan McDonald, a teenager who was shot 16 times as he walked away from police holding a small folded knife.

The 161-page, scathing report outlined how Chicago police routinely used excessive force, and had shot individuals who did not pose any immediate threat.

“We found that officers shoot at vehicles without justification and in contradiction to C.P.D. policy. We found further that officers exhibit poor discipline when discharging their weapons and engage in tactics that endanger themselves and public safety, including failing to await backup when they safely could and should; using unsound tactics in approaching vehicles; and using their own vehicles in a manner that is dangerous,” the report said.

The DOJ criticized CPD for setting up barriers to getting to the bottom of police misconduct and perpetuating a “pervasive cover-up culture.” “The procedures surrounding investigations allow for ample opportunity for collusion among officers and are devoid of any rules prohibiting such coordination,” the report said.

Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ’s civil rights division, said that investigations into police misconduct are “glacially slow” with discipline often “unpredictable and ineffective,” ABC News reports. Gupta further said that police officers do not get enough support to assist them in handling the trauma of their jobs.

According to The New York Times, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch blamed these problems in part on the “severely deficient training procedures” and “accountability systems.” “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,” Lynch said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the report was “sobering” and pledged to make changes beyond those already adopted, ABC News reports. Federal authorities and city officials have signed an agreement that outlined a plan for reform, including commitments to improve transparency, training and accountability for officers.

According to the Times, Emanuel has said that police officers do not have enough supervision, and thus will increase the number of lieutenants and supervisors. Eddie Johnson, Chicago’s police superintendent, said that he is aware of the work that needs to be done and wants to expand training and mentoring for officers.

“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,” Adam Collins, a spokesman for Emanuel, said, according to the Times.

Emily has also authored political articles for Restless Magazine and numerous inspirational and empowering pieces for Project Wednesday. When she isn't writing, she can be found flying off to her next adventure, attempting new recipes, listening to one of her infinite playlists on Spotify, or cuddling with her dogs. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @emilycveith.
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