Feds probe 'excessive force' by Chicago police

2017-01-13 21:18
A man is wheeled on a stretcher after being shot in the leg on Chicago's South Side. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Alex Wroblewski)

A man is wheeled on a stretcher after being shot in the leg on Chicago's South Side. (AP Photo/Sun-Times Media, Alex Wroblewski)

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Washington - A year-long federal investigation into the Chicago police force has identified a pattern of excessive force, especially in predominantly black and Hispanic neighbourhoods, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Friday.

"The Department of Justice has concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Chicago police department engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution," Lynch told a news conference in the city.

A statement from the Justice Department noted that the "pattern or practice of unreasonable force falls heaviest on predominantly black and Latino neighbourhoods."

The investigation was opened December 2015, provoked partly by the highly publicised shooting death of a black adolescent by a white officer in 2014. The authorities had waited more than a year before making public a video of the shooting, sparking a wave of anger.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former close adviser to President Barack Obama, was accused by political opponents of trying to cover up the incident.

The city and police department have agreed to a series of reforms supervised by an independent monitor.

In a broad and damning analysis, Lynch said that Chicago police training procedures were "severely deficient," and that the department "does not adequately review use of force incidents to determine whether force was appropriate or lawful, or whether the use of force could have been avoided altogether."

750 homicides a year

All those problems, Lynch said, were "compounded by poor supervision and oversight, leading to low officer morale and an erosion in officer accountability."

She added that the "countless vast majority" of Chicago officers were performing admirably, and noted that her department had heard from many who were "disillusioned and discouraged by strained trust, inadequate training [and] poor oversight."

The city and the police department, Lynch said, had already taken some "encouraging steps," but there was "still considerable work to be done - work that will require federal partnership and independent oversight."

The Justice Department, in the course of its investigation, interviewed and met with city leaders, police officials and officers, and residents. It also studied investigative files on use-of-force incidents that included more than 170 officer-involved shootings.

Chicago, the third-largest US city, has faced a surging problem with violence in recent years - there were 750 homicides there last year alone, a 10-year high, and more than 3 500 shootings.

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