The Justice Department released a 161-page report Friday detailing the results of its 13-month investigation into the Chicago Police Department. The report paints a damning picture of a department suffering from systemic problems in the way it trains officers, the way it interacts with the community, the way it uses force, both deadly and non-lethal, and the way it investigates the use of that force after the fact.
“Our investigation found that CPD officers use unnecessary and unreasonable force in violation of the Constitution with frequency, and that unconstitutional force has been historically tolerated by CPD," the report said.
The report cites several incidents to illustrate these problems. International Business Times compiled some of the report's most revealing events and the trends they demonstrate:
1. Chicago police shoot people who flee and pose no threat. “We found numerous incidents where CPD officers chased and shot fleeing persons who posed no immediate threat to officers or the public," the report's authors wrote. The report notes that investigators found instances in which officers chased suspects on foot without having any reason to believe the suspect committed a serious crime. "In these cases, the act of fleeing alone was sufficient to trigger a pursuit ending in gunfire, sometimes fatal," the report said.
Investigators highlighted several examples. One was a case in which a man was walking down a residential street when officers drove up to him and ordered him to freeze when they saw him "fidgeting with his waistband." The man took off running, and three officers ran after him. While chasing the man through a residential neighborhood, officers fired 45 rounds at the man, killing him. The officers later said the man fired at them during the pursuit, but no gun was found on the man's body.
"Officers reported recovering a handgun nearly one block away," the report said. "The gun recovered in the vicinity, however, was later determined to be fully-loaded and inoperable, and forensic testing determined there was no gunshot residue on the man’s hands."
Department investigators found the killing of the man was justified, the report said. DOJ investigators noted that although Chicago has policies about pursuing suspects in vehicles, it does not have any policies for chasing suspects on foot, an omission DOJ says should be corrected.
2. Chicago police unnecessarily fired weapons at vehicles. Noting that shooting at vehicles is “inherently dangerous and almost always counterproductive,” the DOJ said that although CPD policy stated that officers should move out of the way of cars, investigators found many incidents in which officers “fired after recklessly positioning themselves in the path of a moving vehicle.”
In one such incident, an off-duty officer saw a driver crash his vehicle leading a high-speed chase. The driver, while trying to escape, wedged his car between an officer’s vehicle and a tree.
“The officer moved in front of the trapped car and fired two shots into the windshield, claiming he did so because he heard the car’s engine revving,” the report says. Police investigators, who never asked the officer why he moved in front of the car, or why he didn’t try to get out of the way instead of shooting the driver, found the shooting justified “despite the apparent policy violation.”
3. Chicago police used unreasonable force against children. The CPD has a history of “subjecting children to force for non-criminal conduct and minor violations,” the report said. The authors recount an incident in which officers “hit a 16-year-old girl with a baton and then Tasered her after she was asked to leave the school for having a cell phone in violation of school rules.” The officers claimed the force was justified because the girl “flailed her arms when they tried to arrest her." The report notes “this was not an isolated incident," and goes onto say that “CPD’s Taser policy does not address the use of Tasers on children. It should.”
4. Chicago police officers often failed to wait for backup and put themselves in dangerous situations, raising the likelihood of a deadly encounter. The report said investigators saw a trend of officers “putting themselves in a position of jeopardy and limiting their force options to just deadly force.” The report lists several such incidents, including one in which an off-duty officer saw a man’s silhouette in a vacant building and suspected the man was a burglar. The officer called 911, but didn’t wait for other officers to arrive, choosing instead to call the man to come out of the building. The man came out of the building, and approached the officer, yelling “You’re not a f---king cop.” The officer “struck and kicked” the man, who then “reached into his waistband and withdrew a shiny object, prompting the officer to fire twice, killing the man. No weapon was recovered.”
A silver watch was found near the victim. Investigators found the killing justified. The same officer later shot another man in the back during a foot pursuit. He claimed the man had pointed a gun at him, but none was ever recovered.
5. Chicago police don't properly investigate use of force incidents. While CPD has policies in place to make sure supervisors investigate use of force incidents by officers, these incidents are often not reported and supervisors often do not conduct real reviews, the report said.
“As a result of so few force incidents being reported and even nominally investigated, and the low quality of the force investigations that do occur, there is no consistent, meaningful accountability for officers who use force in violation of the law or CPD policy,” the report states. This has “helped create a culture in which officers expect to use force and never be carefully scrutinized about the propriety of that use,” the report said.
The report also noted that Chicago paid over half a billion dollars to “settle or pay judgments in police misconduct since 2004.” In over half the incidents that led to those payouts, no disciplinary investigation was conducted.
Chicago’s accountability structures and systems “are broken,” investigators found. They also note that police union contracts require anyone filing a police misconduct complaint to file a sworn affidavit to have the claim investigated. This “creates a tremendous disincentive to come forward with legitimate claims and keeps hidden serious police misconduct."
When incidents were investigated, investigators often asked leading questions during interviews to get statements that would be favorable to officers, the report said. They also don’t review related criminal and civil cases, which means evidence in the public record relating to use of force incidents aren’t examined by internal investigators.
Evidence gathering is also often preemptively sabotaged by officers. The report noted that officers disabled the audio capability of dashboard cameras, citing a January 2016 CPD internal report that found 80 percent of dashboard cameras had audio recording equipment that was either “not working or had been tampered with.”
6. The Chicago Police Department fails to properly train its officers. The report found problems with both the department’s academy and subsequent training programs, something that was no secret to the department’s rank and file. “Officers at all ranks -- from new recruits to the Superintendent -- agree that CPD’s training is inadequate,” the report said.
DOJ investigators said they witnessed a class on deadly force that had officers watch a training video made 35 years ago, before recent Supreme Court decisions that defined acceptable use of deadly force. “The tactics depicted… were clearly out of date with commonly accepted police standards of today,” the report said.
7. Chicago police kill dogs unnecessarily. In a footnote, the report’s authors note they found many instances of “shootings at dogs that appeared to be unnecessary, retaliatory, or reckless.” Complaints made by residents whose dogs were shot were “not adequately investigated.”
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.
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