The hits just keep coming for the beleaguered Chicago Police Department. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was launching an extensive investigation of the CPD, specifically the way it disciplines wayward officers. The DOJ’s investigation is the largest ever review of a domestic police department, according to BuzzFeed News. But that might be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to revelations about the Chicago PD.
BuzzFeed News reports that Jamie Kalven, the independent reporter whose dogged investigation helped with the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video, has published more damning information about the CPD. Last year Kalven won a lawsuit against the city which required the release of police misconduct complaints as far back as 1967. The files have also been requested by the city’s two leading newspapers, The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun Times.
“The documents sought are not the underlying investigative files, but rather a list of every complaint and its disposition over the last 48 years. According to the city, the requested information comes to more than 7,000 pages,” said Kalven in a Sun-Times op-ed.
The information, published on a website, reveals a disturbing pattern of behavior by the CPD. The files show that 95 percent of the 56,000 complaints against Chicago PD officers were dismissed.
Legal action filed by Kalven also prevents the city from destroying the records. Activists hope the records will provide useful information for the DOJ’s investigation. The records also cover the time period when police commander Jon Burge was on the force. Burge was found to have used torture practices to extract hundreds of false confessions, mainly from Black men. Burge was eventually convicted of perjury, did a short jail stint and is now free. He retained his retirement, which pays him about $4,400 per month. The city ended up paying $5.5 million in reparations to Burge’s victims.
The Huffington Post also analyzed complaints by Black Chicago residents lodged against the police department. The information came from the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization that studied police department complaints from 2011-2015. The Huffington Post’s investigation found that complaints filed by Black people were dismissed at four times the rate of complaints filed by white residents. The Huffington Post also found that of 10,500 complaints filed by Black people only 166 (1.6 percent) resulted in an officer being disciplined.
This constant stream of bad news about the Chicago PD is affecting the popularity of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been accused of trying to cover up the Laquan McDonald shooting. A recent poll commissioned by The Insider, a newsletter published by Illinois Observer, revealed that 51 percent of likely voters say Emanuel should resign. Another poll conducted by Chicago firm Ogden & Fry found that only 18 percent approved of the way Emanuel is handling his job.
In a news conference held earlier this morning, Emanuel apologized for the McDonald shooting.
“I am the mayor. As I said the other day, I own it. I take responsibility for what happened because it happened on my watch. If we’re going to fix it. I want you to understand it’s my responsibility with you. But if we’re also going to begin the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step. And I’m sorry,” Emanuel said.