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Loretta Lynch Slams Chicago Police Department After Releasing Damning DOJ Report

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

After a 13-month investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice released a 164-page report Friday detailing the abuse of force by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). According to their findings, officers’ brutality often goes unpunished — especially when its perpetrated in communities of color.

“The Department of Justice has concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Chicago Police department engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force in violation of the fourth Amendment to the Constitution,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced in a press conference the day the report was released.

“Our investigation found that this pattern or practice is in no small part the result of severely deficient training procedures and accountability systems.”

Thousands of pages of documents, including policies, procedures, training plans, department orders and memos, internal and external reports as well as the city’s entire misconduct complaint database, were used as part of the investigation.

Additionally, the Department of Justice received over 500 phone calls, emails, and letters from individuals looking to lend their experience to the report. They included attorneys, paralegals, outreach specialists and data analysts from the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, as well law enforcement officials from police departments nationwide.

Asst. Attorney General Vaita Gupta, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson also spoke at the press conference.

The pattern of deadly and non-deadly force that Chicago Police engages in “includes, for example, shooting at people who present no immediate threat and tasing people for not following verbal commands,” Gupta explained.

The Department of Justice found that the pattern of unconstitutional force is “largely attributable to systemic deficiencies within the CPD and the city,” she added, which includes inadequate training.

“For example, we observed training on deadly force that used a video made decades ago with guidance inconsistent with both current law and internal policy,” Gupta noted.

The report also details measures that the CPD has taken to resolve community relations and policies. Investing in a de-escalation training course for officers and establishing a Community Policing Advisory panel, in addition to recruitment efforts to increase the departments diversity, represent major improvements.

“The incidences described in this report are sobering to all of us. Police misconduct will not be tolerated anywhere in the city of Chicago and those who break the rules will be held accountable for their actions,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

In October 2014, the shooting of Laquan McDonald and the handling of its evidence sparked calls for the mayor’s resignation and the launch of the DOJ’s CPD investigation.

“Some of the finding in the report are difficult to read, but it highlights the work we have yet to complete to restore the trust between the department and the community,” added Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

Watch:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

IMAGE: United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks to Reuters in an exclusive interview in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Nancy Wiechec

Chicago Mayor Apologizes, Protesters Urge He Resign

By Mary Wisniewski and Justin Madden

CHICAGO (Reuters) — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, under heavy criticism for his handling of a police shooting that resulted in the death of a black teen, gave an emotional apology on Wednesday hours before angry crowds closed city streets while demanding his resignation.

In a special address to the City Council, the mayor said “I’m sorry” and promised “complete and total reform of the system.”

Emanuel’s speech was met with applause from the City Council, but protesters said the city’s actions do not go far enough. Hundreds of mostly young demonstrators filled downtown on Wednesday, temporarily shutting down some streets and chanting “no more killer cops” and “Rahm must go.”

“This system is designed for us to be dead or in jail and we’re tired,” said protester Jamal Wayne, 20.

Emanuel’s speech comes after two weeks of protests in Chicago following the release of a 2014 police squad car dashboard video showing police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke, who is white, was charged with first-degree murder late last month.

High-profile killings of black men by mainly white police officers in U.S. cities have prompted a national debate and protests about the use of excessive force by police.

With his voice occasionally breaking, the mayor of the nation’s third-largest city reiterated reform steps he has already promised. These include setting up a task force to review police accountability, the appointment of a new head of the agency that investigates police misconduct and searching for a new police superintendent.

Among the systemic problems with police, Emanuel aimed particular criticism at the “code of silence” that keeps police officers from reporting misconduct by fellow officers. He also has criticized the agency that investigates police misconduct for finding almost all police shootings justified.

“We have a trust problem,” said Emanuel, who stated last week that he had no plans to resign.

A poll over the weekend for the Illinois Observer showed 51 percent of Chicagoans think the mayor should resign, compared with 29 percent who think he should not. Twenty percent were undecided. The survey of 739 respondents had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.68 percent.

The crowd of protesters outside City Hall on Wednesday chanted “16 shots and a cover-up,” and called for the resignation of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who has been criticized for taking more than a year to charge Van Dyke. The protesters were mostly in their teens and twenties – and three teenagers were arrested on unknown charges.

Protester Aaron Clay, 34, said that while Emanuel’s speech may have been emotional, “I don’t think it was an apology to the community.”

State Representative La Shawn Ford, a Chicago member of the Illinois legislature’s black caucus, filed a bill in Springfield on Wednesday to allow voters to recall Emanuel.

Another recently released video shows a man in custody being tasered by police.

The U.S. Justice Department said on Monday it will launch a civil rights investigation into the city’s police department, examining its use of deadly force among other issues.

Also on Wednesday, a federal judge said he would rule by Jan. 14, 2016, on whether to release video in the shooting death of another black teen. The mother of Cedrick Chatman, 17, has sued the city over Chatman’s death on Jan. 7, 2013. The city has opposed release of video in the case.

(Additional reporting by Renita Young in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Photo: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel listens to remarks at a news conference in Chicago, Illinois, United States, December 7, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Where’s The Indignation For What African Americans Do To Themselves?

So where was the march for Tyshawn Lee?

Where were the demonstrators barring access to stores in Chicago’s premiere commercial district on the busiest shopping day of the year? Where was Rev. Jesse Jackson, joining his voice with a thousand other people demanding justice? Where were news media, beaming the images out to the world?

All that and more happened in the name of Laquan McDonald, the 17-year-old African American shot to death last year by a white police officer who claimed the teenager threatened him with a knife. A dashcam video, the release of which the city stonewalled for over a year, contradicts that story. Far from threatening the police, it shows that McDonald was trying to avoid them.

So here is yet another example of the kind of out-of-control policing this country countenances in an injustice system that has all but criminalized African-American existence. And yes, it deserves all the outrage, media attention and civil disobedience it has generated.

But where was that level of engagement for 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee, lured into an alley and executed in the same city a few weeks ago? Where was it for J-Quantae Riles, a 14-year-old boy shot to death a few days later after leaving a barber shop? Where was it for Jonylah Watkins, a 6-month-old baby killed by stray bullets in 2013 as her father was changing her diaper?

The argument is not that no one cared about the killings of those black children, or that no one took action because of them. Yet there is, it seems obvious, a difference both quantitative and qualitative in the African-American response to atrocities inflicted from within and those inflicted from without. And in the news media’s response as well.

It is into that disparity of concern that Spike Lee drops his new movie, Chi-Raq. Based on an ancient Greek play, it is the tale of Lysistrata, a gang leader’s fed-up girlfriend, who leads the women of Chicago in a sex strike. They vow to deny their men their bodies until those men put down their guns and pledge allegiance to peace.

Yes, the movie is as uneven as you’ve heard — by turns, poignant, raunchy, hilarious and incomprehensible. But one thing it is consistently and that is, impassioned. Chi-Raq is an indictment of the forces that have allowed major urban areas to devolve into killing fields where the body count surpasses that of Mideast war zones. It identifies those forces as: the NRA, which contends that the problem with a nation of an estimated 310 million firearms is that we have too few guns; the politicians too gutless to stand up against the gun lobby; a black unemployment rate that is perpetually double the national average, and disinvestment in our cities even as we spend billions to rebuild Afghanistan’s and Iraq’s.

To these culprits, the movie implicitly adds one more: what it sees as an African-American community that tacitly accepts urban murder as almost a natural disaster like an earthquake or heat wave, a thing one can only endure, but never change. As in a scene wherein a distraught mother cries out to passersby to step forward, bear witness to the caught-in-the-crossfire killing of her daughter, and receives in response only silence.

Police malfeasance will probably always monopolize our attention, precisely because it is police malfeasance; something we’ve too often seen go unpunished, unchecked and excused. But Chi-Raq argues that, for all the rage African Americans bear for what others do to us, we need to also spare some indignation for what we are doing to ourselves. Over half the murder victims in this country last year were black, an obscene number that cries out for black people — for all people of conscience — to stand up and give a damn.

After all, those black lives matter, too.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.) (c) 2015 THE MIAMI HERALD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

A demonstrator chants as he marches through the streets during protests in Chicago, November 24, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

Justice Department To Investigate Chicago Police: Source

By Julia Edwards

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department will open an investigation into the Chicago Police Department after protests over how it handled the case of a black teenager shot by a white police officer, a person familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

The “patterns and practices” investigation will determine whether the department systematically violates constitutional rights. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not elaborate on the investigation.

The Chicago Police Department said it was expecting to release a statement regarding the investigation later on Sunday.

The civil probe follows murder charges filed against the police officer in the October 2014 killing. The shooting was caught on videotape, which was not released until the charges were filed last month.

Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times. Shortly after that, the city released a patrol car video of the shooting. Van Dyke fired all the shots.

Protests erupted afterward in the third most populous U.S. city, culminating in the firing on Tuesday of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Critics of the mayor and local prosecutor have complained it took too long for the McDonald tape to be released and for charges to be filed.

The release of the video comes at a time of heightened debate in the United States over police use of lethal force, especially against black people. Over the past year, protests over the issue have rocked a number of U.S. cities.

A patterns and practices investigation does not criminally charge individuals, but often results in a consent decree between a police department and the Justice Department to agree to new practices and accountability measures.

A lawyer for the McDonald family and a spokesman for Emanuel were not immediately available for comment regarding the federal investigation.

The Justice Department launched an investigation in May into the Baltimore Police Department’s use of force and whether there were patterns of discriminatory policing after the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, who suffered fatal injuries while in police custody.

A Justice Department investigation of police in Ferguson, Missouri, where a white officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager last year, concluded in March that the department routinely engaged in racially biased practices.

The investigation of the Chicago Police Department was requested by the Illinois attorney general.

(Reporting by Julia Edwards and Brendan O’Brien; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Alan Crosby and Peter Cooney)

A demonstrator carrirs a flag under the watchful eye of Chicago Police Department officers as they gather to protest last year’s shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white policeman and the city’s handling of the case at an intersection in the downtown shopping district of Chicago, Illinois, November 27, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young