Feds launch civil rights investigation of Chicago Police Department

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AP News Guide: Feds Begin Work on Chicago Police Probe.

A federal civil rights investigation that will look at one of the nation’s largest police departments began in earnest Wednesday, with Chicago’s top officer saying Department of Justice agents were expected to sit down with top Chicago police brass.

Rahm Emanuel, whose reputation as a tough and impatient dealmaker followed him from the White House to Chicago City Hall, is finding that governing a fractious city can be as challenging as convincing truculent Republican lawmakers to pass legislation—and, perhaps in the end, unachievable.CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago’s City Council today began its own fact-finding effort into the crisis of confidence involving Chicago Police and introduced an ordinance to require officers to undergo new training in the use of force every year.

Interim Superintendent John Escalante told a city council hearing Tuesday police are entering uncharted territory as they prepare to answer inquiries. “We have not been through anything like this before,” he said. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the investigation Dec. 7 amid protests over the release of a video of the 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by white Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is charged with murder. Chicago joins a long list of other police departments that have been looked at, and the DOJ has opened 23 since the start of the Obama administration, its website says. FOP chief Dean Angelo said it doesn’t exist. “We have kids, we have bills, we have families; and to think in 2015, with all the cameras that are around, and all the videotaping that’s going on, that a police officer is going to risk his livelihood for his family is ridiculous,” Angelo said. “You’ve got some bad ones out there and we’ve got to get rid of them,” Mitts said. “Them snakes got to go.

We ought to cut their heads off and I don’t care if they call themselves police officers.” WBBM Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Sharon Fairley, the newly appointed head of the Independent Police Review Authority, was the first to testify at the joint hearing. The city is weighed down with debt, billions in unfunded pension obligations, declining credit ratings, a police department often accused of using excessive force against African-Americans, a rising tide of murders, and a host of other troubles. And it is in our self-interest as a city that they’re here because the problems and the challenges we have in the sense of police and community relations and the changes that we need are deep-seeded. She outlined how IPRA investigates allegations of police misconduct. “I actually will be looking at the process to make sure that it is as robust as it should be,” Fairley said. “With regards to the expediency of our investigations, I know that that is also a concern.” But she frustrated alderman in nearly four hours of testimony when she couldn’t immediately answer detailed questions about the job she has held for about four days. There’s no rush: Investigations of far smaller departments have taken more than a year to finish, and it’s likely the one into Chicago’s 12,000-officer force will be the same.

Wednesday’s meeting with the Justice Department comes a day after Chicago aldermen held an extended public hearing on the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The video underscored the longtime tense relations between Chicago residents and police, but it was the timing of its release that drew protestors into the street. Angelo described it as an informal, off-the-record talk, and said he conveyed that the union wanted to “help facilitate the moving parts of the investigation.” While staff from the Justice’s Department’s civil rights division takes the leads the investigation, the U.S. He said he “welcomed” a federal investigation of “systemic issues embedded in” the Police Department and said, “I own the confusion” about his earlier opposition to the probe. The real reason the video was kept under lock and key, his critics claimed, was that Emanuel was battling a strong challenger for his mayoral reelection and did not want his campaign to be tainted by the kind of protests that had engulfed Ferguson, Mo. and other cities where police were accused of unnecessarily shooting civilians.

Last week, an apology from Emanuel—who said, “I take responsibility for what happened, because it happened on my watch”—did little to quell protestors’ anger. 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.

The DOJ will scrutinize Chicago police from top to bottom as agents try to determine if there’s something systemic in how the department works that leads to patterns of abuse that violated citizens’ rights enshrined in the U.S. Then, as if Emanuel’s administration wasn’t already besieged, the local teachers’ union announced this week that its members had overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike, which would put some 400,000 students out on the street. “Do not cut our schools, do not lay off educators or balance the budget on our backs,” said Jesse Sharkey, the union’s vice president, in announcing the results of the voting by the 27,000 teacher and staff members. The federal investigation is expected to focus on excessive force, the process of disciplining wayward officers and police interactions with minorities. Some 88 percent of them endorsed the possibility of a strike as preliminary talks over teacher evaluations, salary increases, pension contributions, and standardized testing stalled after the expiration of the teachers’ contract last June.

Worryingly for Emanuel’s administration, the union seems to be framing the dispute as a tradeoff between education and economic development, with Sharkey noting that, “We need to be asking why we’re spending on things like river walks when our schools aren’t funded.” He was referring to a $99 million overhaul of the Chicago Riverwalk, a path running along the Chicago River’s south bank in the middle of downtown. Daley’s former patronage chief, Streets and Sanitation commissioner and others convicted of rigging city hiring to benefit the Hispanic Democratic Organization and other pro-Daley armies of political workers. The city’s 2012 draft plan to revitalize the local economy, “A Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs,” concluded that the city’s future rests on its ability to compete with other regions around the globe. The report noted that New York and Los Angeles grew four times faster than Chicago over the most recent decade as Chicago lagged behind in creating jobs and boosting income.

Riverwalk is an easy target because it is highly visible, has a large price tag, and is financed with a federal loan backed by a local motor fuel tax that, some argue, could be better used for purposes such as municipal schools. At the same time, Emanuel, who avoided raising taxes in his first term, in September asked for a huge property tax increase to cover some of the city’s shortfall—a proposal that is anything but popular as he fights to recover the trust of city residents.

While Emanuel wants to reinvigorate the city, he is running straight into the intractable web of crime, money shortfalls, and entrenched factions that have worked hard for what they’ve achieved and aren’t inclined to give anything up. A protester carries a caricature of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel during a march on Michigan Ave., calling for Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign in the wake of a police scandal, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, in Chicago.

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