U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced this week that the Justice Department is opening a civil rights investigation into the practices and patterns of the Chicago Police Department.
This comes after the city of Chicago released on Friday (December 4) hundreds of pages of documents related to the October 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by White officer Jason Van Dyke.
Van Dyke, who has been charged with first degree murder, and three other officers at the scene wrote in their official report last year that 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was aggressively approaching Officer Van Dyke with a small knife when he was shot 16 times by Van Dyke.
However, the video which the city failed to release for a year, shows McDonald veering away from officers on a four lane street, where Van Dyke shot him. Van Dyke continued to shoot the fallen man as he laid on the ground. The video was released only after the successful efforts by a freelance reporter using the Freedom of Information Act.
The investigation will focus on police force and accountability in Chicago.
“What we are looking at is whether or not the police department has engaged in unconstitutional policing,” Lynch said in making her announcement on Monday (Dec. 7).
Chicago’s police chief Gary McCarthy was fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week after Van Dyke was charged. Now civil rights activists have called for the Mayor’s resignation if it is shown he knew of the video of the shooting before it was formally released.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez also has come under fire for taking 400 days to file charges against Van Dyke after the October 2014 shooting and for keeping the video under wraps until forced by the court to release it under the Freedom of Information Act request.