Justice Department Opens Investigation Into Chicago Police

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The U.S. Department of Justice is opening a civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department’s pattern and practices, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said today.

The probe, which will focus on use of force and accountability within the police department, is the latest fallout from the shooting death of black teen Laquan McDonald and comes nearly two weeks after dash cam video allegedly showing Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting the teenager last year was released following a court order.

“What we are looking at is whether or not the police department has engaged in unconstitutional policing,” Lynch said in announcing the investigation, which she said had been requested by several officials and activists.

The probe, which will be partially handled by the department’s Civil Rights Division, will particularly look into the use of deathly force and the accountability systems in place at the Chicago Police Department, including disciplinary actions and the department’s response to complaints of misconduct.

Lynch’s announcement comes exactly one week after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sent a letter to the Department of Justice last week asking it to investigate Chicago police. Madigan said then that the McDonald case “highlights serious questions about the use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse,” according to a statement.

Lynch said building trust is one of the goals of opening the investigation.

“When suspicion and hostility are allowed to fester, they can build unrest,” she said.

Chicago police have been under scrutiny since the video, which appears to show Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, was made public on Nov. 24. Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder, for which he pleaded not guilty.

Just last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the city’s top cop Garry McCarthy had been asked to resign. After announcing McCarthy had stepped down, Emanuel told reporters the former police superintendent had “become an issue rather than dealing with the issue.”

More on the investigation from ABC News here.

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