DOJ launches probe into Chicago police after Laquan McDonald charges

© Reuters
The Department of Justice will review the practices of the Chicago police, after the video showing the killing of Laquan McDonald prompted two weeks of protests.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch made the announcement at a press conference on Monday. Civil rights investigators from the DOJ will meet with city officials, police and community members to establish whether the police in Chicago engaged in “unconstitutional patterns and practices,” she said.

When community members “feel ignored, let down or mistreated” by police, there are “profound consequences” for the rule of law, Lynch said.

The probe will examine the Chicago Police Department’s use of force, racial and ethnic disparities in enforcement, and accountability mechanisms, including disciplinary proceedings and investigations of misconduct.

"If we discover unconstitutional patterns or practices, the Department of Justice will announce them publicly, seek a court-enforceable agreement with the Chicago Police Department and work with the city to implement appropriate reforms," Lynch told reporters.

The Chicago probe comes after protests over the way the city handled the investigation of the police killing of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. On November 24, the Chicago PD released a dashcam recording of the incident, showing McDonald getting shot by Officer Jason Van Dyke. The officer, who shot the knife-wielding teen 16 times, just seconds after arriving on the scene, was charged with first-degree murder.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was forced to resign last week, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel struggled to placate the protesters who also called for his own resignation. The move came days after protesters blocked off a large portion of the city’s shopping district on the day after Thanksgiving, disrupting holiday sales.

On Sunday, some 400 protesters marched through the city chanting “Rahm resign” and “Rahm’s gotta go,” according to WBBM Chicago. The peaceful protest was organized by the Reverend Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Reacting to the DOJ announcement, Emanuel said he welcomed the investigation and pledged the city's "complete cooperation."

Similar DOJ investigations have already been conducted in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, following allegations of racism in policing driven by deaths of young African-Americans.