Criminal Justice

Chicago police use excessive force, without being held accountable, Justice Department finds

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Chicago police use excessive force, by pattern or practice, and minorities are most affected, according to a Justice Department report released on Friday.

The use of excessive force, including deadly force, violates the Fourth Amendment, the report (PDF) concluded. A press release is here; media coverage includes stories by the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

The report says police are using excessive force because of inadequate training and the failure to hold police accountable for misconduct. The failure to review and investigate officer use of force “has helped create a culture in which officers expect to use force and not be questioned about the need for or propriety of that use,” the report said.

Officers engage in “tactically unsound and unnecessary foot pursuits” that too often end with officers unreasonably shooting someone, including unarmed individuals, the report says. Officers also fail to await backup when they could and should, use unsound tactics when approaching vehicles, and use their own vehicles in a dangerous manner, the report said.

In addition, some police officers used Tasers against or shot at individuals who posed no immediate threat, the report said. In many instances, officers’ accounts of force incidents were discredited by video, according to the report.

The probe was launched after Chicago’s delayed release of police video showing an officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times as he appeared to be walking away. Officers had claimed McDonald lunged at the officer.

The city of Chicago and the Justice Department have reached an agreement in principle to create a consent decree addressing the problems. The report notes a pledge to outfit all Chicago police officers with body cameras by year’s end, and urges the city to go forward with the plan.

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