US launches civil rights investigations into Chicago police

Washington: The US Justice department today announced a federal civil rights investigation into the functioning of the powerful Chicago police, days after the city released the explosive video of a white police officer shooting a black teenager.

“In the coming months, we look forward to engaging directly with all stakeholders in Chicago – including the city’s residents, law enforcement officers and public officials – as part of our fact-driven and thorough review,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch told reporters.

The investigation comes following the release of a video of the October 2014 incident that shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald shot 16 times by a police officer. The Chicago Police chief has already been fired.

“Building trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve is one of my highest priorities as Attorney General,” she said.

“Regardless of the findings in this investigation, we will seek to work with local officials, residents, and law enforcement officers alike to ensure that the people of Chicago have the world-class police department they deserve,” she added.

The appearance of the video had flared up tensions between the police and the community in Chicago.

“The Justice Department’s investigation – opened with currently available, preliminary information – seeks to determine whether the Chicago Police Department’s use of force practices and accountability systems comply with constitutional standards necessary to effectively serve its community and productively support its police officers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said this investigation shouldn’t be viewed as a penalty, but rather as an opportunity.

These investigations in other major cities have led to critical reforms that improve the safety of police and the communities they serve, he said.

These reforms coordinated with the Justice Department are currently underway in cities like Seattle; Pittsburgh; Cleveland; Albuquerque; New Orleans; and Portland, Oregon, he said.