Justice

Justice Department Launches Investigation of Chicago Police

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The Department of Justice has officially launched a so-called "pattern or practice" investigation of the Chicago police department.

To be clear, this investigation is only indirectly related to the killing of Laquan McDonald which is also being investigated. Numerous other incidents, including the operation of a black-site where suspects are held for days without being charged or even officially booked, have prompted this investigation.

From the Associated Press:

"This mistrust from members of the community makes it more difficult to gain help with investigations, to encourage victims and witnesses of crimes to speak up, and to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of public safety officials," [Attorney General] Lynch said. "And when suspicion and hostility is allowed to fester, it can erupt into unrest." [...]

The University of Chicago said last month that an analysis by its civil rights and police accountability clinic found of 56,000 complaints against Chicago police — but only a fraction led to disciplinary action. Among the most notorious cases, dozens of men, mostly African-American, said they were subjected to torture from a Chicago police squad headed by former commander Jon Burge during the 1970s, '80s and early '90s. Burge was convicted of lying about the torture and served 4½ years in prison.

Given the vast size and scope of the Chicago PD it could be many months before we see preliminary results from this investigation but, if the Justice Department determines that local police systemically violate the Constitution, the Chicago Police Department will be required to reform or face a federal lawsuit.

If various reports we've read over the past year are an indication, it seems likely to me that the department is systemically broken. With that said, I believe an investigation of every department in the country would uncover corruption and repeated violations of the Constitution. The Department of Justice can't investigate all of them but it can focus on high profile cases that may set an example for other police departments.

Here's an official statement from the Department of Justice:

During the course of the investigation, the Justice Department will consider all relevant information, particularly the CPD’s policies, training and practices related to using, reporting, investigating and reviewing force. The Justice Department will also look into CPD’s practices related to disciplinary and other corrective action; and its practices related to intake and handling of allegations of misconduct.

  • muselet

    I’ve said before, I don’t hate the police. However, it is getting harder and harder to believe there are “good cops” when they say and do nothing to stop “bad cops” from violating people’s Constitutional rights, maintaining black sites, torturing, and killing people. And the deafening whining from the various police unions about being subjected to actual civilian review—along with the blatant work slowdowns in some jurisdictions—makes me suspect there are fewer “good cops” in the ranks than I thought.

    Again, I don’t hate the police, but if a cop cannot or will not do the job s/he was hired to do, then that cop should quit and find a job more compatible with his/her beliefs, preferences and skills.

    –alopecia

    • JMAshby

      I am fully against police unions and want to see them abolished. I haven’t seen a single example of them reacting responsibly to even the mildest of criticism. More often than not their responses come off to me as fascist.

      As for the collective guilt of police forces, it seems to me like a consequence of us-vs-them rhetoric and training that assumes every person you encounter may be a threat. To say a police force has been militarized is not just to say they carry powerful weapons and expensive toys. It’s also their training. They cover for each other because they see themselves as warriors on a battlefield.

      http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/dec/04/the-county-kern-county-california-deputies-tactics

      • muselet

        I won’t go as far as you. Police unions exist for the same reason as any other union. Mind you, I’m not sure how to make sure “protect our members from wrongful termination” stops meaning “protect our members from the public at all costs.”

        Us-versus-them has been the police mindset since at least the 1950s, when William Parker turned the (lazy, corrupt and ineffectual) Los Angeles Police Department into a (more professional but highly-politicized) paramilitary organization and put officers in cars. Adding firepower and ouchy toys, and over-emphasizing the “warrior” model of policing both in training and on the job (plus the internalization of a line from a very so-so movie: “You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.”) hasn’t helped police-public relations at all.

        What the answers are, I don’t know. What I do know is that we can’t let things continue the way they are.

        –alopecia

        • Christopher Foxx

          Mind you, I’m not sure how to make sure “protect our members from wrongful termination” stops meaning “protect our members from the public at all costs.”

          Oh, that’s easy. Have clear acceptable codes of behavior and don’t defend people for breaking them.

          The problem with police unions isn’t that they make sure their members and aren’t mistreated and are fairly represented if their actions get questioned. It’s that they make sure their members don’t face any consequence for their actions regardless of what those actions may be.

    • Christopher Foxx

      it is getting harder and harder to believe there are “good cops” when they say and do nothing to stop “bad cops” from violating people’s Constitutional rights, maintaining black sites, torturing, and killing people

      I find it near impossible to believe that any cop could be ignorant of those activities going on. They might not be involved, they may not ever come near the place, they may never participate. But they can’t be ignorant. There is no way they don’t know, at the very least, that something suspicious is happening.

      And looking into suspicious signs of wrongdoing is pretty much a top bullet in their job description.

      So, yes, it is hard for me to believe that there are any “good” cops in the larger police forces.

    • Christopher Foxx

      but if a cop cannot or will not do the job s/he was hired to do, then that cop should quit and find a job more compatible with his/her beliefs, preferences and skills

      That cop already has. Their beliefs and preferences seem to be “We can do anything we want and should never be questioned about it, and I prefer showing people how much I can dominate them”. And currently the job most compatible with those is police officer.

  • Christopher Foxx

    Burge was convicted of lying about the torture and served 4½ years in prison.

    It makes me wonder what happened to the folks who helped him do it. Perhaps Burge wouldn’t talk and the others, then, couldn’t get charged for lack of evidence. I’m purely speculating but the train of thought lead me to this:

    I’d be OK with taking any police officer who was even suspected of torturing folks or detaining them in secret “black sites” and throwing them in a hole indefinitely without charge or even being booked. If they want the due process they denied to others, then they have to cooperate fully first.

    Unconstitutional in the extreme? Of course. But I’m that pissed about these criminals and the supposed cops who help them get away with it. Even if only by maintaining the reprehensible and cowardly “wall of silence.” I cannot believe that even the officers who were never personally involved were not aware of what kinds of things were being done by others.