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Illinois Attorney General Calls for DOJ investigation of Chicago Police, as Family of Ronald Johnson Demands Release of His Tape

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (Illinois Observer staff)
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (Illinois Observer staff)

Although embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fired police chief Garry McCarthy, his problems seem to be mounting. Several news sources are reporting that Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has called for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the Chicago Police Department to determine whether they have violated the constitution and federal law.

According to NBC Chicago, Madigan wrote a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to review the Chicago PD’s use of force and look into patterns of discriminatory policing. Madigan said she believed the CPD’s process of reviewing charges of officer misconduct was inadequate. In her letter, she cites the recently released Laquan McDonald shooting video and several other cases of officers who engaged in abusive and sometimes criminal behavior. Madigan points out one particularly egregious case involving Officer Jerome Finnegan, who was convicted in 2011 of trying to have another officer murdered. Finnegan received 68 complaints during nearly two decades on the force, but was never disciplined. Finnegan, and several other CPD officers, also placed antlers on the head of a Black suspect and took pictures with him. The photo was just released earlier this year, but was believed to have been taken several years ago.

Madigan said the situation involving the Chicago Police Department needed urgent action.

“Trust in the Chicago Police Department is broken, especially in communities of color in the City of Chicago,” writes Madigan. “An investigation into whether there are patterns and practices of civil rights violations by CPD is vital to bringing about the systemic change that is necessary here. Chicago cannot move ahead without an outside, independent investigation into its police department that moves toward improved policing practices and increasing trust between the police and the community.”

Madigan is not the only person calling for the Department of Justice to investigate the Chicago PD. According to The Houston Chronicle, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin has also called for a federal investigation.

Chicago PD officers seem to operate with impunity knowing they are not likely to be disciplined. The New York Times said from 2011-2015, 97 percent of complaints filed against CPD officers resulted in no action being taken.

The DOJ has investigated other police departments in the past and usually finds racial profiling and incidents of civil rights violations. According to PBS, the DOJ’s investigation of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD)’s actions post-Hurricane Katrina, found “systematic violations of civil rights.” Now two FBI agents are permanently stationed with the NOPD to look into corruption or civil rights violations.

The DOJ, which is currently investigating the Baltimore Police Department, has investigated 67 police agencies since it was given authorization to do so in 1994, said PBS.

Faced with widespread criticism of the Chicago PD’s actions, Emanuel has created a Task Force on Police Accountability which includes high-profile names such as former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is a Chicago native. However MSNBC Chief Legal Correspondent Ari Melber dismissed the mayor’s task force as a “joke.”

And the Chicago PD might be facing yet another scandal. Dorothy Holmes, the mother of Ronald Johnson, a 25-year-old man fatally shot by the CPD last year, is demanding the release of his tape. Police say he was armed and pointed a gun at officers. However, his mother says he was running away. Judging by the Chicago PD’s record, it’s likely Holmes is the one telling the truth.

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