Chicago Police Regularly Use Excessive Force in Violation of Fourth Amendment, says DOJ Report

by Josie Duffy Rice –

The Chicago Police Department regularly violates the Fourth Amendment by using “unnecessary and avoidable” uses of force, an investigation by the Justice Department has found. The Department has released a 161-page report of its investigation and findings. According to the Department:

This pattern or practice [of use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment] includes:

  • Shooting at fleeing suspects who presented no immediate threat;
  • Shooting at vehicles without justification;
  • Using less-lethal force, including tasers, against people who pose no threat;
  • Using force to retaliate against and punish individuals;
  • Using excessive force against juveniles;

In addition, the following practices contribute to the pattern or practice of excessive force:

  • Failing to effectively de-escalate situations or to use crisis intervention techniques to reduce the need for force
  • Employing tactics that unnecessarily endanger officers and result in avoidable shootings and other uses of force; and
  • Failing to accurately document and meaningfully review officers’ use of force.

With regard to accountability, the investigation found:

  • The city fails to investigate the majority of cases it is required to investigate by law.
  • When it does investigate, the questioning of officers is aimed at eliciting information favorable to the officer, and investigators do not confront officers with inconsistent physical evidence.
  • The city does not take sufficient steps to secure accurate and complete witness statements, including by preventing officers from concealing misconduct
  • Discipline is haphazard, unpredictable and does not deter misconduct.

The Justice Department identified a number of other systemic deficiencies, including:

  • Inadequate training and supervision;
  • Insufficient support for officer wellness and safety;
  • Data collection systems that impede transparency;
  • A promotions system seen as political and unfair by officers; and
  • Failure to adequately address racially discriminatory conduct by officers—which in some respects is caused by deficiencies in CPD’s systems of training, supervision and accountability—and the corrosive effect on police legitimacy of excessive force, which falls most heavily on Chicago’s communities of color.

Chicago and the DOJ have agreed to  “create a federal court-enforceable consent decree” to “address the deficiencies found during the investigation.” The consent decree will apparently include community input.

The Justice Department’s findings come 13 months after they began investigating the Department, after a video surfaced showing a CPD officer shooting unarmed black teenager Laquan McDonald sixteen times in the back.


Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos