Shots In The Back, Children Tasered: DOJ Details Excessive Force By Chicago Police
Fleeing, unarmed people shot in the back. Mentally ill men and women, not suspected of any crime, stunned by a Taser while they lay on the ground. People already detained or incapacitated who were beaten, with police accounts falsely describing the force as necessary. A 161-page report from the Justice Department details harrowing accounts of excessive force by the Chicago Police Department and highlights systemic failures that allow the violence to continue even as members of the public attempt to protest or report the brutality.
The investigation was launched after the death of Laquan McDonald in 2014 put Chicago's policing practices in the spotlight. Video released by court order showed a police officer shooting the black teenager in the back.
The report found an ongoing "pattern or practice" of unreasonable and excessive force — not a series of isolated events. And the violations are rarely punished, the DOJ says, as officers' descriptions of encounters are taken "at face value" even when there's contradictory evidence.
What does that mean for Chicago residents? The DOJ included a number of "illustrative examples" of the police department's systemic failings. Here's what that pattern of excessive force looks like on the ground:
Shooting at fleeing suspects
In "numerous incidents," Chicago officers chased and shot fleeing people who posed no threat to officers or the public, the DOJ says. In some cases, there was no basis even to suspect the person of committing a serious crime.
"The act of fleeing alone was sufficient to trigger a pursuit ending in gunfire, sometimes fatal," the DOJ writes.
In one case, the report says, police officers fired 45 rounds at a man who was running away, killing him. They claimed he had fired a gun at them while they were chasing him — even though they noted there was no gun found on the man.
And there were these examples:
"In another case, a CPD officer chased a man who ran when an officer told him to stop, and then shot the man in the back of the leg. The officer claimed the man had turned to point a gun. After a thorough search of the scene, no gun was recovered. The man, who denied ever turning to face the officer, was found only with a cell phone. ...
"In another case, a CPD officer fatally shot a fleeing, unarmed suspect in the back. The officer told investigators the suspect had turned around to point a black object. This account did not square with the location of the shooting victim's gunshot wounds and appeared contrary to video footage that showed the suspect running away from the officer."
The department doesn't have a foot pursuit policy for officers to follow. In all three of these cases, the department accepted the officers' accounts and found the shootings justified.