U.S. Chastises Chicago Police on Use of Force

CHICAGO -- The Chicago police have systematically violated the civil rights of residents by routinely using excessive force, especially against black and Latino people, the Justice Department said in a scathing report released Friday.Federal investigators excoriated the department and city officials alike for what they called "systemic deficiencies." They said their inquiry found that the Chicago police force did not provide officers with proper guidance for using force, did not properly investigate improper uses of force, and did not hold officers accountable for such incidents."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," Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a news conference.The report culminates a 13-month federal investigation launched amid the fallout over the shooting of a black teenager by a white officer.In response to the investigation, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has agreed to enter a court-enforced pact with the Justice Department on reforms, federal authorities said. The report lauds changes Emanuel has made to policing in recent months, including improved training and equipment, but says that further improvements are needed.Report's findingsVanita Gupta, head of the department's Civil Rights Division, said that Chicago officers were found to have shot people who posed no immediate threat and shocked people with Tasers simply for not following verbal commands.Investigators said they also found cases where children were subjected to force for minor issues, including a 16-year-old girl hit with a baton and then shocked with a Taser for not leaving school when she was found carrying a cellphone. In another case described in the report, an officer "forcibly handcuffed a 12-year-old Latino boy" riding his bicycle near his father and refused to explain why.The report also found that:Officers often engaged in dangerous foot chases that ended with "officers unreasonably shooting someone -- including unarmed individuals."Gang members were taken to a rival gang's neighborhood as way of scaring them into providing information.Morale was low throughout the department, and officers felt abandoned by the public and the city.'Broken' systemGupta faulted the department for inadequate training, saying it used decades-old videos that provided guidance inconsistent with current law and even the department's own policies. She described Chicago's accountability system as "broken," with officers rarely being held accountable for their misdeeds.Lynch said that the Justice Department's investigation found that there is "considerable work to be done" to reform the Chicago police force, which will require independent oversight. As a result, she said the Justice Department would begin negotiations with city officials to enter a court-enforceable consent decree. She was joined at the news conference by Emanuel, a Democrat, and Eddie Johnson, the police superintendent.Gupta said career lawyers would begin negotiating a consent decree that would put court authority behind that agreement, similar to the order just announced Thursday in Baltimore.Both announcements, in Baltimore and Chicago, arrive in the twilight of the Obama administration, which has made expansive use of Justice Department investigations amid a wrenching national debate over race and policing. Chicago is among nearly two dozen cities -- including Baltimore, Seattle, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo. -- where the Justice Department has pushed for wholesale changes in policing.The administration is seeking to cement that legacy before President-elect Donald Trump, who long portrayed himself as a staunch friend of law enforcement, takes office.Trump's nominee to replace Lynch, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., has publicly been critical of consent decrees, but the attorney general said she expected that the Chicago agreement would live on beyond the Obama administration."Yes, the top people at the Department of Justice move on, but this agreement is not dependent on one, or two, or three people," she said.Speaking on Capitol Hill during his confirmation hearing this week, Sessions suggested that entire departments filled with good officers could be tarred by the work of individuals and was critical of lawsuits that force reforms."These lawsuits undermine the respect for police officers and create an impression that the entire department is not doing their work consistent with fidelity to law and fairness, and we need to be careful before we do that," Sessions said.  Continue reading...

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