U.S. Justice Department opens federal rights probe into Chicago Police Department

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The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday it has launched a federal rights probe into the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, a teenager who was shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer.

U.S. Attorney General Lynch, speaking at a news conference Monday morning, said the probe will focus on whether or not the Chicago Police Department has “a pattern or practice of violations” of the Constitution or federal law. “Specifically, we will examine a number of issues related to the Chicago Police Department’s use the force, including its use of deadly force, racial, ethnic and other disparities in the use of force, and its accountability mechanisms,” she said.

Lynch said the investigation would be independent of other investigations following the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, 17, who was allegedly shot 16 times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke back in October 2014.

“Our goal in this investigation – as in all of our pattern-or-practice investigations – is not to focus on individuals, but to improve systems; to ensure that officers are being provided with the tools they need – including training, policy guidance and equipment – to be more effective, to partner with civilians and to strengthen public safety,” Lynch said. “Building trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve is one of my highest priorities as Attorney General. The Department of Justice intends to do everything we can to foster those bonds and create safer and fairer communities across the country. “

Dash-cam video of the shooting was released two weeks ago and sparked protests throughout the city. Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Garry McCarthy as Chicago police superintendent, but activists who allege that city officials attempted to cover up the circumstances of the shooting have called on the mayor and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign, citing their delay in releasing the tape and bringing charges against Van Dyke.

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