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‘Unprecedented’ Release of Evidence from Chicago Police Investigations Makes Recordings of Police Shootings Readily Available to Public

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

The city of Chicago suffered severe public scrutiny following the release of dash cam video showing the moment 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was fatally shot by police. The shocking footage sparked protests and left people wondering why authorities waited over a year to release it. Now, the city is looking to take a step in the right direction through a policy that would make such evidence readily available to the public.

According to the Washington Post, Chicago officials released a large volume of evidence Friday from 101 investigations into police shootings and other misconduct. The videos, audio recordings and reports were posted online by the Independent Police Review Authority, a Chicago-based agency whose mission is to “conduct investigations into police misconduct in a manner that maintains the confidence of the public, and of sworn police officers, in the integrity of the process.”

The agency also looks into complaints of excessive force and incidents of great bodily harm or death that occur in police custody, the Washington Post reported.

IPRA’s chief administrator, Shirley R. Fairley, called the release “historic” at Friday’s press conference.

“It is my hope that this new policy will successfully balance the public’s need for timely information about these incidents and the integrity of ongoing investigations,” Fairley said.

She went on to say that moving forward, such evidence would be made public within 60 to 90 days of police-related incidents. The materials can also be accessed through an online portal on IPRA’s website.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also voiced his approval of the new policy and hopes the city’s increased transparency will help restore trust between Chicago residents and the police.

“Earlier today, the Task Force on Police Accountability recommended a new City policy on the release of evidence, including videos, in police-involved shootings and other serious incidents,” Emanuel stated in a February news release. “I embrace their recommendations and will work to ensure they become the rule going forward. 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.”

Many of the video and audio recordings posted in the portal stem from years-old cases, Chicago’s ABC 7 reports. Almost all of the incidents are still being investigated.

According to the news station, Fairley asserted that just because the evidence was made public, doesn’t mean the case is anywhere close to being solved.

“The release of these materials has no impact on current investigations,” she explained.

According to Chicago’s NBC 5, the online portal also features footage from incidents involving Michael Cote, David Strong and Lisa Simmons. Cote, a resident of Michigan, was shot during a traffic stop after officers accused him of accelerating toward them. Strong was shot five times by police in 2012 as he tried to flee a burglary at a Chicago electronics store. Lastly, Simmons filed a suit against Chicago police for alleged brutality after a dash cam video showed officers forcefully slamming her onto the hood of a car, the news station reports.

Despite these unfavorable incidents and a high-profile investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Chicago’s massive release of evidence is shaping up to be the first step toward restoring its integrity.

According to the Washington Post, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, Chuck Wexler, described the release as “unprecedented.”

“This is a sign of the times,” Wexler told the publication in a phone interview. “This is what a city feels it needs to do to help restore its credibility. And it says a lot about the importance of transparency.”

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