Chicago police to release officer shooting videos within 2-3 mos as mayor caves to pressure

 Footage of the officer-involved shooting of Laquan McDonald in October 2014. © DNAinfo Chicago
Chicago’s mayor has caved to public pressure, agreeing to release videos of officer-involved shootings up to 90 days after the incident. City authorities were heavily criticized for waiting more than a year to share video of the shooting of a black teen.

On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the heavily criticized Chicago Police Department will begin releasing videos of police shootings, taken from dashboard and body cameras, within two to three months of each incident. The policy change came almost immediately after the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force made the recommendation to the mayor of the Illinois city.

The new policy requires the city to release within 60 days the audio and video recordings and police reports related to shootings, deaths in police custody or other major uses of force by officers. However, it allows law enforcement agencies to seek an additional 30-day delay.

“I embrace their recommendations and will work to ensure they become the rule going forward,” Emanuel said in a statement. “Restoring trust between our police and the communities they’re sworn to serve is an essential part of our City’s public safety efforts, and this is an important step as we continue that work.”

“Simply put, the longstanding policy the City followed for decades is out of date and this new policy strikes a better balance of ensuring transparency for the public while also ensuring any criminal or disciplinary investigations are not compromised,” the mayor continued.

Civil rights attorneys are not placated by the new policy however. They believe that two to three months is too long to withhold the information.

"[Video] protects the truth. If the police haven't done anything wrong, it corroborates that," Jon Loevy, a lawyer whose firm helped push the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video, told the Chicago Tribune.

Emanuel and the Chicago PD have faced protests and growing criticism of how the city has handled officer-involved shootings in the past. Things came to a head after the shooting death of the 17-year-old McDonald in October 2014. The knife-wielding teen was shot 16 times just seconds after the responding officer, Jason Van Dyke, arrived on the scene. In November 2015, Van Dyke was arrested and charged with murder in the case, hours before police video of the shooting was released to the public. The footage did not match police descriptions of the incident.

Protests quickly followed, calling for an overhaul of the Chicago PD and for Emanuel to resign. The city’s top cop, Superintendent Garry McCarthy, was ousted in December, and the mayor has unveiled a series  of changes designed to fundamentally overhaul police practices and culture in the wake of the McDonald shooting, as well as several other high-profile police brutality cases.

The Department of Justice began investigating the troubled department for a potential pattern of civil rights violations in December. That announcement came days after an Illinois Circuit Court judge ruled that Chicago police must first contact the media before disposing of hundreds of thousands of files related to complaints against officers.

The police reform task force, which Emanuel created in December, will make more recommendations in late March, but its members thought it was important to quickly address the release of video, Lori Lightfoot, who chairs the task force and the Chicago Police Board, told the Chicago Tribune.

“While this new policy is an important step forward, our work is far from finished as we continue to address issues that have plagued the City for decades,” Emanuel said. “We will continue taking additional steps to make our communities safer while also ensuring that we are as transparent as possible, and that those police officers who do violate the public’s trust are held accountable.”