The string of questionable shooting deaths of teens, mentally ill and innocent bystanders by Chicago Police officers has led to a criminal investigation by the US Justice Department. And for a change, the feds aren’t investigating individual incidents. Instead, they are investigating the entire Chicago Police Department including City Hall itself. Is there a criminal ‘code of silence’ protecting police officers from criminal prosecution?
That’s the question the Justice Dept is attempting to answer according to documents obtained by two local Chicago news outlets via a FOIA request. Those documents, acquired by NBC 5 Chicago and detailed by the Chicago Sun Times yesterday, show federal authorities have made 86 separate demands for information from the Chicago Police Dept and City Hall. The documents show the DoJ requests began in December 2015 and have continued as recently as last month.
The federal investigation appears to have begun after the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald who was shot 16 times by Chicago police. One officer involved in that incident is now facing murder charges. But the records requested by federal agents date as far back as 2011. They also include demands for information from the double-homicide by a Chicago Police officer in which Quintonio LeGrier and an innocent bystander were shot and killed. LeGrier was the mentally ill teen who called 911 for help.
The federal investigation of the Chicago Police appears to have been spurred by the fatal shooting of McDonald and the subsequent falsification of police reports and perjured testimony of numerous officers involved in the incident. Like nearly all other police killings over the past three decades, the shooting was deemed ‘justified’ by the CPD and the Independent Police Review Authority. That is, until the police’s own video footage was released showing the teen was shot in the back and as he lay motionless on the ground. The video also showed that multiple police officers lied on their official reports of the incident.
According to the DoJ documents obtained by the two local news outlets, the Justice Department has made 86 separate requests for records from the Chicago Police Department since the Laquan McDonald shooting. The additional requests expand the federal investigation to cover not just individual shooting deaths, but the cover-ups allegedly perpetrated by Chicago City Hall and the police department itself.
The most controversial portion of the federal investigation involves the well known ‘code of silence’ inside the Chicago Police Department in which supposedly ‘good cops’ look the other way and falsify police reports to protect the criminal activity of fellow officers. The federal investigation reportedly extends all the way to Chicago City Hall.
Other issues and accusations the Justice Department has demanded information from the CPD include:
The lack of disciplinary action taken against police officers accused of criminal activity.
The oversight by the Independent Police Review Authority charged with investigating crimes committed by police officers.
SWAT team and Canine unit deployments.
City Hall and CPD retaliation against two CPD officers who testified for the FBI against fellow officers who were eventually convicted of robbery.
CPD procedures for investigating whistleblower tips of criminal activity being waged by Chicago Police officers.
Targeted retribution by authorities against whistleblowers inside the Chicago Police Dept.
Numerous incidents in which innocent bystanders were hurt or killed when CPD officers were deemed justified in using force.
The identities of individuals hired to instruct police officers, including outside contractors.
The identities of all Chicago Police officers who are suspiciously being paid while on extended sick leave, disability, and ‘light duty’.
CPD resistance to the use of body cameras on all police officers.
An assortment of other issues and questions were also included in the DoJ’s ongoing request for information from the CPD and Chicago City Hall including training programs, officer wellness programs, procedures for handling dash-cam videos, and the overlap of personal activities of police officers while on the job.
Responding to the news reports of the growing federal investigation of the CPD and City Hall, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel released a statement saying, “As we have said for months, we will continue to cooperate fully and work closely with the Department of Justice in their review and we believe their work will be an important part of rebuilding trust in our police department.”