The Latest: Federal investigation into Chicago police begins

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Chicago aldermen hold hearing on police shooting of teen.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Members of the U.S. The fact that Laquan McDonald was a black teenager with a troubled life is not the point [“Family of teen shot by Chicago cop joins calls for change,” News, Dec. 12].From Chicago to Springfield, there has been plenty of political flank-covering in the aftermath of the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, from Tuesday’s lengthy City Hall hearing on police misconduct to a long-shot bill at the Capitol that would allow for a recall of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.US police chiefs are facing rising job insecurity as they grapple with a jump in crime rates and greater scrutiny by media and federal authorities in the wake of videotaped shooting incidents involving cops nationwide.

The recall bill aims to give voters a chance to oust Emanuel before the next election, but the proposal is rife with legal questions and likely to stall under the legislature’s top Democratic leadership. Department of Justice officials set to meet Wednesday with Chicago Police Department command staff as part of a federal civil rights investigation into officers’ use of force, aldermen had a marathon hearing Tuesday focused on the high-profile Laquan McDonald shooting that prompted the probe. Political symbolism and campaign angling ahead of the March primary election were among the themes at a joint hearing of the City Council’s Human Relations and Public Safety committees.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy became the latest chief to fall this month after angry protests over a video showing a police officer gunning down black teenager Laquan McDonald last year. Aldermen don’t have the power to force changes at the state’s attorney’s office, which has been vilified for waiting 13 months to charge the officer who shot the teen. The Chicago Tribune reports (http://trib.in/1QqRXIF ) interim Superintendent John Escalante said there’s a meeting with DOJ officials Wednesday and he’ll help identify a department liaison to work with them.

Police chiefs have also lost their jobs in Baltimore, Newark, Phoenix, and Cincinnati, and in smaller cities including Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Inkster, Michigan; and Morrow, Georgia. And while aldermen asked for information on Police Department policies, they are not calling for specific changes in the way police misconduct cases are investigated. The protesters gathered at 7pm at West Congress Parkway and Clark Street, after the Chicago Light Brigade had held its annual vigil for victims of police violence. Protesters have called for the ouster of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, following outrage at the shooting death of a black man by officers that was caught on tape. While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come under intense criticism for keeping video of the shooting under wraps, the aldermen did not request that the mayor or even top aides appear at the hearing.

Daniel Solis, 25th, summed up the aldermanic frustration when he sought answers from Sharon Fairley, Emanuel’s new pick to run the city’s Independent Police Review Authority that investigates police misconduct. And the first witness, the mayor’s head of the agency that reviews police shootings, offered generic answers as aldermen pressed for specifics, saying she’s new to the job. President, I want you to send a representative to convene a White House summit on gun violence, and urban poverty, and police brutality,” said McDonald’s great uncle Reverend Marvin Hunter on November 11, according to CBS Chicago. “Time and time again, black people are being mistreated by the legal system here, by the Chicago Police,” Hunter added. “We’re suffering because of laws and policies put in place.

Solis asked Fairley for numbers on the results of IPRA investigations, but the recent appointee didn’t have the specifics. “I think that’s a ridiculous response,” said an exasperated Solis. “Again, this is about understanding the system is broken. The agenda did feature a symbolic resolution asking for a special prosecutor to replace Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez in the prosecution of police Officer Jason Van Dyke for murder in the McDonald case.

We need information, we need understanding of how the system works, and if you can’t answer the questions, then this is not going to be — it’s a waste of time.” As Fairley’s testimony entered the third of four hours, Solis left the room to check messages and commiserate with colleagues in the room next to the council chamber. The skills required to succeed as a chief – understanding the media, working well with politicians, strong public speaking and the ability to both lead and discipline your officers – are the same as always, he said.

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. Meanwhile on Tuesday, Commander Glenn Evans, accused of jamming a gun down suspect Rickey Williams’ mouth during a 2013 encounter, was found not guilty of aggravated battery and misconduct. Nevertheless, he said, there is no shortage of people who want a chief job in the largest cities, which according to PERF came with an average annual salary of $195,000 in 2014. While on December 7, video footage from 2012 was released showing Phillip Coleman in a jail cell being tased three times before being dragged down the hallway.

A Reuters review of the nation’s largest 30 cities showed the average chief had held the job for 4.2 years, relatively unchanged over the last 10 years. An autopsy report listed the cause of death as a severe reaction to haloperidol, an antipsychotic drug, but the report also documented a fractured rib and over 50 bruises and scrapes.

Jaime Andrade. “This is what the people wanted,” said Ford, who acknowledged that legal questions exist as to whether his bill could apply to a sitting mayor. “If this is what the people really want, I hope the speaker will listen.” Speaker Michael Madigan, a veteran Southwest Side Democrat who also chairs the state party, is the key for any bill to advance. Any top cop has many constituencies to placate, including the public, the mayors who can hire and fire police chiefs, the media and the department’s own officers, law enforcement officials said. In October, it was revealed that more than 7,000 people – 82 percent of whom were black – were detained, “disappeared,” and not given access to an attorney at a secret ‘black site’ police detention center in Chicago.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said the recall legislation is “under review” while lawyers assess the legal questions it would create, including if it could only be applied to one office — the mayor of Chicago. Then, assuming a pattern of violations is found, city officials and the Justice Department will hammer out a lengthy legal agreement over how to reform the department. But Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, an Emanuel ally who counts the mayor as a constituent of his Northwest Side district, is more definitive.

That trend has reversed for some serious crimes, with national murder rates up 16 percent this year, according to an October report by the Congressional Research Service. Finally, the most difficult task falls on the Police Department: implementing those changes. “The (Justice Department) is coming, there’s a lot of folks coming down here to investigate the Laquan case and many other cases,” Cardenas said. “I think they will speak to that if it’s needed.

Chicago’s murder rate rose 14 percent through November, while Houston and San Francisco’s through October are up 30 percent and 18 percent, respectively. In September, a police chief in Surf City, North Carolina, said he was forced to step down after he described the Black Lives Matter movement as “an American-born terrorist group” in a Facebook post. Republican activists have sought to encourage GOP lawmakers to sign onto the bill, ostensibly to encourage Republican outreach to African-Americans but also to try to take advantage of a rare show of weakness by Emanuel. And CompStat, a system that gathers data to help police pinpoint hot spots and deploy officers effectively, has become a source of controversy in Chicago and other cities where critics say police misreport crimes.

Asked why the video wasn’t made public sooner, Fairley said, “I don’t believe it’s illegal (to release video before an investigation is complete), and that is definitely a policy that needs to be revisited.” Ald. John Arena, 45th, said Fairley’s predecessor, Scott Ando, should have been the one on the hot seat to explain the reason for the McDonald investigation stretching for more than a year. Veteran election law attorneys say the question of whether a recall could be activated against Emanuel should the bill become law could take the rest of the mayor’s current term to litigate. In 1976, a federal court dismissed a challenge raised by a group of Berwyn aldermen over whether their terms could be cut short by a voter referendum proposal that was aimed at putting all city offices up for election on the same date.

While the latest bill would establish recall of all Chicago mayors moving forward, it’s clearly targeted at Emanuel and would essentially “change the rules in the middle of the game,” said Kent Redfield, an elections and constitution expert at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. She said the task force also will look to establish “a very clear policy on when videotape and other evidence gets released in connection with important police actions such as police-involved shootings or other in-custody incidents.” And she said they will try to set clear directives for police to deal “with individuals who are in duress, and particularly those who are exhibiting any mental illness or mental disability.” McDonald was behaving erratically the night Van Dyke shot him. That would put into motion a six-month process in which backers would have to get petition signatures equal to at least 15 percent of the total votes cast in the last mayoral election.

Even if the bill is rewritten to affect future mayoral terms, he said he believed petition signatures should be gathered in a show of “no confidence” to Emanuel. Ford, however, has not called for Emanuel to resign, doesn’t believe the mayor will do so and said recall should not be “an easy process” initiated over personality disputes or competing political philosophies, but more for issues involving potential criminal conduct or neglecting duties. “I’ve never been with Rahm. Multiple aspects of the official police narrative of the September 2005 shooting of Lopez have been challenged in the Cook County lawsuit accusing the Police Department of excessive force and lying to cover up officers’ conduct.

The Lopez family’s lawsuit heads to trial in February over allegations Chicago police shot the 23-year-old janitor 16 times without justification and then concocted a story that they were acting in self-defense because Lopez tried to run over an officer with his car.

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