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City Barely Keeps Track Of Police Shootings, Excessive Force, Probe Finds

By Tanveer Ali | January 13, 2017 12:15pm | Updated on January 16, 2017 11:52am
 A still from the dashcam video of Laquan McDonald being shot by a police officer.
A still from the dashcam video of Laquan McDonald being shot by a police officer.
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CHICAGO — When federal investigators tried to figure out how many people have been shot by police officers in Chicago, they found a big question mark. 

That's because the city has not bothered keeping complete records of police use of force, according to the U.S. Justice Department's report released Friday.

"The City was not able to accurately identify how many people were shot by CPD officers," the report stated. 

The main finding of the report, which was the result of an investigation launched in 2015 aftre the release of the Laquan McDonald police shooting video, is that "CPD engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of force."

FULL REPORT: Read The Dept. of Justice's Report On The Chicago Police Dept.

In investigating CPD's use of force, the Justice Department investigated hundreds of nonlethal police force incidents, police shootings and civilian complaints.

"The City was not able to accurately identify how many people were shot by CPD officers," according to the report.

And while the city couldn't provide the number of people shot by Chicago police, federal investigators documented 203 officer-involved shootings in which 223 civilians were shot from January 2011 to March 2016. 

The Justice Department report also found several trends in the incidents in which police kill civilians, "including that CPD engages in dangerous and unnecessary foot pursuits and other unsound tactics that result in CPD shooting people, including those who are unarmed."

The report also found a "trend in dangerous and unnecessary shootings at vehicles and other unsafe tactics that placed officers and others in danger of being shot."

Some officer-involved shootings were the result of "officers unnecessarily escalating confrontations or using reckless, untrained tactics, putting themselves in a position of jeopardy and limiting their force options to just deadly force."

Several police shooting incidents are described in the report, with the October 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald referenced several times.

"The McDonald incident was widely viewed as a tipping point — igniting longstanding concerns about CPD officers’ use of force, and the City’s systems for detecting and correcting the unlawful use of force," the introduction of the 164-page report stated.

That case was used as an example of how the Independent Police Review Authority, a city agency separate from the Police Department, "generally accepted the officer’s version of events."

The McDonald case was initially deemed a justified shooting after officers at the scene reported that McDonald was aggressive with a knife. Seven officers were fired after the release of the dashcam video of the incident, according to the Justice Department report.

The report uses the McDonald case and video from the July 2016 shooting of Paul O'Neal that shows police discussing the case, as examples of how police collude and confirm each others stories before an investigation.

In other instances during investigations, witnesses are coached or asked leading questions, the Justice Department Report found.

The report also criticized how police use nonlethal force, such as Tasers, and are ineffective with crisis intervention.

The federal report does have praise for the Police Department, saying proposed revisions to the department's use of force policy "address core force principles such as the sanctity of life, ethical behavior, objective and proportional use of force, use of deadly force, de-escalation, and force mitigation."

But it also criticized the Police Department's ability to investigate wrongdoing, with nearly half of misconduct complaints facing no investigation, partially because of union restrictions.

"In the rare instances when complaints of misconduct are sustained, discipline is inconsistent and unpredictable, and meted out in a way that does little to deter misconduct," the report says.