CHICAGO: Chicago’s police chief said Thursday he was recommending the firing of seven officers accused of making false reports over the shooting death of a black teenager.
A video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald’s 2014 shooting death sparked outrage, led to a federal civil rights probe of the city’s police department, and was one of several police shootings of African Americans that spurred street protests around the country.
The officer who shot McDonald 16 times, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial. Ten other officers were accused of covering up Van Dyke’s actions.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s conclusion that seven of those officers should be fired followed a review of documents, video and other evidence, his office said.
The police officers’ statements related to McDonald’s shooting violate a rule that prohibits “making a false report, written or oral,” Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement.
“The officers have been relieved of their police powers,” it added.
Their final fate will be determined by a police oversight board appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Johnson recommended that the board fire them.
Emanuel released a statement offering his support of Johnson’s actions.
“As the city takes these important steps to hold individuals accountable, we must also recommit ourselves to partnering together to rebuild trust between our police department and our residents,” the mayor said.
The 10 officers were accused of corroborating Van Dyke’s story of the incident, later contradicted by the video which showed Van Dyke shooting the teenager even as he appears to move away from officers and after he falls to the ground.
The city’s inspector general had recommended the firing of all 10 officers, but two of them have since retired and Johnson disagreed with the recommendation to fire a third.
The McDonald case led to widespread criticism of the mayor, city prosecutor and police department for their handling of the incident.
Van Dyke was not charged with first-degree murder until more than a year after the shooting, and only just before the release of the graphic video.
City officials had resisted releasing the video. A judge’s order late last year finally compelled them to do so.
In the aftermath, Mayor Emanuel fired the previous police chief, Garry McCarthy. Angry residents called for the mayor’s resignation, but he resisted the appeals.
The Justice Department opened a federal civil rights investigation of the Chicago Police Department, and the mayor created a task force to study racial disparities in policing.
The task force found that 74 percent of police shootings in recent years were of African Americans, even though only a third of the city’s overall population is black.
In June, authorities in the crime-wracked city, hoping to repair relations, released a trove of videos, audio recordings and materials related to active investigations of police conduct. – (AFP)