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Chicago police regularly abuse civil rights, Department of Justice says

By Eric DuVall
Chicago police regularly abuse civil rights, Department of Justice says
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel listens while Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante addresses efforts to restore accountability and trust in Chicago Police Department in 2015. After years of complaints and a 13-month investigation, the Department of Justice on Friday issued a scathing report accusing Chicago police of routinely discriinating against minorities and depriving them of civil rights. File Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo

CHICAGO, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- A damning report by the Department of Justice released Friday showed the Chicago Police Department has systematically engaged in abusive behavior predominantly directed at minorities, depriving residents of their civil rights.

The report comes after a 13-month investigation that included interviews with current and former CPD administrators, rank-and-file officers, more than 1,000 residents and 90 community groups. Justice Department investigators also reviewed a random sample of officer-involved use-of-force cases, including 170 officer-involved shootings over a 5-year span, dating back to 2011.

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Chicago is home to the nation's second-largest police force behind New York.

The result is a scathing 164-page indictment of the police department, which officials said lacked proper training, oversight and accountability to prevent systemic racially biased, abusive policing that specifically targeted blacks and Latinos for years.

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The Chicago report states police are 10 times more likely to use force -- including deadly force -- against black residents than whites. Additionally, the report states the department has been far too lax in rigorously investigating complaints about officers' use of force.

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Investigators found evidence officers shot people who posed no threat and in some instances resorted to Tasers when someone did not follow a verbal command, substantially escalating situations that could have been resolved with little or no forcible actions by the officers involved.

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Investigators also said only one-in-six recent graduates of the Chicago Police Academy "came close" to being able to describe the legal standard for appropriate use of force.

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Responding to the report, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed in principle to enter into a court-enforced pact with the Justice Department to enact widespread reforms meant to restore the public's trust in the Chicago Police Department.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a finalized version of a similar agreement with city officials in Baltimore on Thursday. It called for a massive overhaul of officer training, oversight and accountability. Baltimore officials committed to investing millions to overhaul the city's police department after the Justice Department similarly uncovered evidence of widespread civil rights abuses targeting minorities.

The landmark report comes in the final days of President Barack Obama's term and is a searing indictment of his hometown's police force. It is also a tacit criticism of the city's previous and present leadership, most prominently Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff who left the White House to run for mayor.

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While Obama's administration conducted the investigation of Chicago's police, it will be up to his predecessor President-elect Donald Trump and Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions to follow through on the in-principle agreement to draft and enforce a consent decree to overhaul the department.

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In confirmation hearings this week, Sessions expressed skepticism about the cost and usefulness of the Justice Department's use of consent decrees like the one signed in Baltimore on Thursday and proposed in Chicago on Friday. During the campaign, Trump routinely criticized Obama administration policies he said hurt police and prevent them from being able to properly do their jobs.

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