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Department Of Justice Will Investigate The Chicago Police Department

By aaroncynic in News on Dec 7, 2015 2:45PM

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Demonstrators demanding justice for Laquan McDonald and an investigation into the practices of the Chicago Police Department march through the Loop on Sunday, Dec. 6. Photo by Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist

The Department of Justice is will launch a probe into the “patterns and practices” of the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the release of the video showing the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

Updated 11:00 a.m.: Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday morning that the Department of Justice probe of CPD will focus on race and the use of force.

McDonald, who was shot 16 times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, is the latest in a string of high-profile deaths of young people of color—both locally and nationally—at the hands of mostly white law enforcement officers. Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder by Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez last month, just before the harrowing video's release was compelled by a court order.

Police reports on the shooting released on Friday differ wildly from the dashcam video footage. Hundreds of pages of documents say that McDonald was approaching officers in an aggressive manner with a knife. Van Dyke told an investigator that the 17 year-old was “swinging the knife in an aggressive, exaggerated manner.” Another report said that McDonald fell to the ground, continuing to move and refusing to let go of the knife. The reports say Van Dyke “feared for his life” and called the shooting “justifiable.”

The dashcam video however, shows McDonald moving away from Van Dyke, who emptied his gun into him just seconds after arriving on the scene.

On Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel reversed course on a statement he made in regards to increasing calls for a wider ranged Federal investigation into the Chicago Police Department. Earlier last week, he said that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s call for such an investigation was “misguided,” but then soon after released a statement saying his opinion was just the opposite:

"I want to clarify my comments from yesterday and I want to be clear that the City welcomes engagement by the Department of Justice when it comes to looking at the systemic issues embedded in CPD."

According to the Washington Post
, which first broke the story Sunday night, the investigation would be similar to those done by the DOJ of police departments in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland.

“Civil rights division lawyers are reviewing the many requests for an investigation, which is the department’s standard process, and the attorney general is briefed regularly on the review and expects to make a decision very soon,” a department official told reporters.

Under enormous political pressure to reform the police department, Emanuel ousted police chief Garry McCarthy and announced a new police accountability task force last week. Late Sunday he also announced he is replacing the head of the Independent Police Review Authority, which is supposed to investigating cases in which an officer shoots a civilian, among other subjects. Historically, IPRA almost never finds police officers at fault for a shooting.

Demonstrations demanding justice for the death of McDonald, the resignations of Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and the investigation into the police department continued throughout the weekend, with marches along the Magnificent Mile on Saturday and in the Loop on Sunday.