The U.S. Justice Department is expected to launch a wide-ranging investigation this week into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department. The Washington Post first reported the development earlier today.
The federal probe of the CPD will be similar to recent probes of police departments in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri. And the Chicago probe, like those in the other cities, is being prompted by a case in which a white Chicago police officer shot an unarmed black teenager — 16 times in the latest case.
Bot the CPD and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have faced harsh criticism iover their handling of the October, 2014, death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. White officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder more than a year after the killing and just one day before the release of police dashboard camera video showing the officer firing 16 shots at the black teenager, according to The Associated Press.
Since then, Emanuel 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.
But pressure on the mayor has not abated. Calls for him to resign — something he’s said he won’t do — have grown louder. More than 200 protesters shouted that he step down during a march this afternoon in downtown Chicago. Protesters counted to 16 during the march, a number that has taken on a symbolic significance since the demonstrations began.
Emanuel initially said a federal civil rights investigation of Chicago police tactics would be “misguided” because the U.S. Attorney’s office in Chicago was already investigating. But Emanuel later backed down and said he’d welcome the Justice Department’s help in “restoring” trust in the department.
Hillary Clinton and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan also have called for a federal investigation.
AP reported on Friday that Chicago released hundreds of pages that show police officers initially reported a very different version of the encounter with McDonald than the video shows. That further angered activists and protesters, who already believed the city covered up what really happened to McDonald.
The Justice Department in the last six years has opened more than 20 investigations of police departments. In March, the department released a scathing report of the Ferguson police force that found pervasive civil rights abuses, and in May, it reached a settlement with Cleveland police that called for sweeping improvements — including to that department’s use of force policies. It opened an investigation of Baltimore police in May after demonstrations there turned violent in response to the death of a black man in police custody.
Civil right leader Rev. Jesse Jackson said he hoped that the investigation would focus not only on the police department, but on Emanuel’s office and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office that he and others have criticized for taking so long to bring charges against Van Dyke.
Chicago has a sordid history of police brutality and abuse. In a lawsuit filed against the city in October, three men said they were subjected to “unconstitutionally coercive and torturous tactics” at the CPD’s notorious Homan Square facility on the city’s West Side. A series of articles about Homan Square published by The Guardian, a U.K. newspaper, shocked the world.
The Guardian described the facility as a “secretive warehouse” that is “the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.”
The savage culture of sadism at Cook County Jail has been described in numerous lawsuits and investigative reports.