AP News Guide: Feds Begin Work on Chicago Police Probe

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AP News Guide: Feds begin work on Chicago police probe.

CHICAGO (AP) — A federal civil rights investigation looking at one of the nation’s largest police departments began in earnest Wednesday, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will talk with federal investigators Thursday. Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder after a dashcam video showed him fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante told a City Council hearing Tuesday about a planned sit-down between investigators and police brass Wednesday, adding, “We have not been through anything like this before.” Meanwhile Wednesday night, the Chicago Tribune reported that the officer charged in the 2014 shooting death of a black teenager that set off the investigation was indicted by a Cook County grand jury. State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez acknowledged she made the announcement earlier than planned out of concern for “public safety.” Court records show Alvarez’s office obtained the seven-count indictment from a grand jury Tuesday. The video — released 13 months after the shooting — shows McDonald running down the middle of Pulaski Road near 41st Street when Van Dyke opens fire, hitting the teen 16 times.

Van Dyke, who was freed on $1.5 million bail Nov. 30 after spending six nights in Cook County Jail, is scheduled to return Friday to the Leighton Criminal Court Building. The Justice Department said Wednesday it is having “productive” talks on police reforms in Ferguson, Missouri, where a probe was opened after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014. Prosecutors said Van Dyke fired 16 shots in 14 to 15 seconds, and for all but one of two of those seconds, McDonald was already lying wounded on the pavement on Oct. 20, 2014. There’s no rush: Investigations of far smaller departments have taken a year to finish and the one into Chicago’s 12,000-officer force could take longer.

The head of the Chicago police union, Dean Angelo, told WTTW-TV he already met with Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who leads the investigation. Angelo described it as an off-the-record talk, saying he conveyed that the union wanted to “help facilitate the moving parts of the investigation.” Emanuel, who’s faced some calls for his resignation over the McDonald case, said two members of his administration flew to Washington, D.C., last week for talks on the investigation, but he didn’t offer details.

In charging the officer with six counts of first-degree murder, the indictment alleged that Van Dyke acted “without lawful justification” in shooting McDonald. Chicago’s top cop and the heads of agencies who police the police were all grilled by aldermen who themselves were feeling the heat over the use of deadly force. Aldermen introduced an ordinance requiring an annual four hour refresher course on the appropriate use of force, while also digging into the alleged code of silence. A key component is also community outreach — talking with families of Chicago residents shot by officers, likely setting up a hotline and email for tips, and holding town hall meetings to get direct feedback from the public.

As McDonald walked away from him, Van Dyke took at least one step forward and fired 16 rounds at McDonald in about 14 seconds and was reloading when another officer told him to hold his fire, prosecutors said. At the time of the shooting, a representative of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union representing rank-and-file officers, said McDonald had lunged at Van Dyke. President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff said Wednesday that the federal investigation, to which he was initially cool, will bring a “fresh set of eyes” on persistent allegations of police misconduct.

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