CHICAGO (CN) – The Justice Department said in a scathing report released Friday that the Chicago Police Department’s failures in training and accountability are to blame for civil rights violations and the erosion of public trust.
The city and the U.S. Department of Justice reached an agreement in principle to work together toward a consent decree that will addressing deficiencies found in the government’s investigation. Its findings are outlined in a 161-page report.
The DOJ found that a lack of training and accountability has resulted in CPD officers using improper tactics, especially in black and Latino neighborhoods, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The report detailing the investigation reveals a police force that sometimes shoots at fleeing suspects and into cars when no threat is posed. Officers were seen using violence to punish suspects in place of proper de-escalation techniques.
“One of my highest priorities as Attorney General has been to ensure that every American enjoys police protection that is lawful, responsive, and transparent,” U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “Sadly, our thorough investigation into the Chicago Police Department found that far too many residents of this proud city have not received that kind of policing. The resulting deficit in trust and accountability is not just bad for residents – it’s also bad for dedicated police officers trying to do their jobs safely and effectively.”
The DOJ announced it would look into both the CPD and the Independent Police Review Authority in December 2015 after the department came under intense scrutiny with the release of the police dashcam video showing the fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white officer. The video sparked protests and the resignation of Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
“Over the year-plus since release of that video, and while we have been conducting this investigation, Chicago experienced a surge in shootings and homicides. The reasons for this spike are broadly debated and inarguably complex. But on two points there is little debate,” the report states. “First, for decades, certain neighborhoods on Chicago’s South and West Sides have been disproportionately ravaged by gun violence. Those same neighborhoods have borne the brunt of the recent surge of violence. And second, for Chicago to find solutions—short- and long-term—for making those neighborhoods safe, it is imperative that the City rebuild trust between CPD and the people it serves, particularly in these communities.”
The Justice Department says the trust between the city’s police department and its citizens “has been broken by systems that have allowed CPD officers who violate the law to escape accountability.”
As part of its investigation, the government says it spoke to over 1,000 community members and 90 community groups, and accompanied police officers on more than 60 ride-alongs in every police district in Chicago.
The government’s findings conclude that many officers in the city “feel abandoned by the public and often by their own department.”
Inadequate training, a failure to address racial discrimination, a promotions system viewed as being solely political and a failure to properly investigate officer-involved incidents and steering the conclusions in favor of the officers has corroded not only the public’s trust in the department, but the department itself, according to the DOJ.
“We found profoundly low morale nearly every place we went within CPD. Officers generally feel that they are insufficiently trained and supported to do their work effectively,” the report states. “Our investigation indicates that both CPD’s lawfulness and effectiveness can be vastly improved if the City and CPD make the changes necessary to consistently incentivize and reward effective, ethical, and active policing.”
“The failures we identified in our findings – that we heard about from residents and officers alike — have deeply eroded community trust,” Vanita Gupta, head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “But today is a moment of opportunity, where we begin to move from identifying problems to developing solution.”
CPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Courthouse News.