Report: Officer Tampered With Dashcam Before Killing Teen

| by Nik Bonopartis
Protesters asked Illinois prosecutors to charge Van Dyke.Protesters asked Illinois prosecutors to charge Van Dyke.

The Chicago police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald repeatedly tampered with his patrol car's dash camera, an investigation has found.

The dash camera in the patrol car Officer Jason Van Dyke shared with his duty partner was fixed on June 17, 2014, three months after it was reported broken, local news site DNA Info Chicago said. A day later, the camera was suspiciously broken again. It took police maintenance repairmen another four months to get around to repairing the camera on Van Dyke's cruiser again, but the device was broken a third time, just 12 days before Van Dyke shot and killed Laquan.

The camera was still broken on Oct. 20, 2014, the night Van Dyke shot Laquan 16 times as the teenager walked away from officers.

Cops tampering with in-dash cameras is common in the Chicago Police Department ranks, according to DNA Info's investigation: 80 percent of the 1,800 maintenance logs reviewed by reporters showed cops regularly tampered with the cameras, and it often took the department months to fix the broken systems.

The Chicago Police Department has a fleet of 850 cars, and 680 of them don't capture audio like they're supposed to, the investigation found. More than 100 patrol cars are unable to capture video on any given day.

More than a year passed between the shooting and Van Dyke's indictment, and in December the officer pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct, ABC News reported. Video of the shooting shows Laquan, a burglary suspect at the time, turning and walking away from the officers, with a knife in his right hand capturing the glint from overhead street lights. Laquan collapsed from the shots -- which weren't seen clearly on the fuzzy recording -- and a few seconds later, after the teenager stopped moving, another officer kicked the knife out of his hand.

Chicago police did not release video of the shooting until more than a month later, when a judge ordered the department to comply with a journalist's Freedom of Information Act request for the footage.

Chicago's police superintendent was fired in the fallout, and the Department of Justice launched an investigation into Chicago police practices.

Van Dyke had been the subject of at least 20 official complaints and two lawsuits during his 14-year police career, CNN reported. One of those lawsuits, in which Van Dyke was accused of using excessive force on a man during a traffic stop, resulted in a $350,000 payout from the city to the victim.

Chicago police have said they will crack down on officers tampering with recording equipment.

"When you've got a standup cop who has nothing to hide, the dashcam is his friend," video forensics specialist Gregg Stuchman told the Chicago Tribune in December. "But for cops who aren't quite as standup, it would make sense that they wouldn't want things recorded."

Sources: DNA Info, ABC, CNN / Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

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