The U.S. Department of Justice will investigate the Chicago Police Department following the shooting death of African-American teenager Laquan McDonald. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced the investigation on Dec. 7 (video below).
Racial tensions in Chicago have escalated to new heights since the Nov. 24 release of video showing the October 2014 death of McDonald. The footage shows Chicago Officer Jason Van Dyke allegedly shooting shooting McDonald 16 times, reports ABC News.
Public distrust for the Chicago Police Department deepened after police records of the shooting death were made public, showing that Van Dyke and his fellow officers on the scene gave a contradictory account to what the video shows.
The police claimed McDonald had directly threatened them with a knife, despite the video showing that the teenager was walking away from police when Van Dyke fired, Chicago Tribune reports.
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Van Dyke has since been charged with first-degree murder.
Chicago Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate her state’s police department amid the controversy.
"The shocking death of Laquan McDonald is the latest tragedy in our city that highlights serious questions about the use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse,” Madigan wrote in a letter to the DOJ, ABC 7 reports. “Trust in the Chicago Police Department is broken.”
Attorney General Lynch announced that the DOJ will launch a civil rights probe into the Chicago Police Department. The goal will be to identify any systematic abuses of power within the organization and help rebuild trust between police and the Chicago community.
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"When suspicion and hostility are allowed to fester, they can build unrest," Lynch said, according to ABC News.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pledged full cooperation with the DOJ’s investigation.
"Our mutual goal is to create a stronger, better police department that keeps the community safe while respecting the civil rights of every Chicagoan," Emanuel said.