Concern Looms Year After Laquan McDonald Shooting Sparked Justice Probe

Some question commitment by the new administration

Nearly a year after the U.S. Department of Justice opened a pattern and practice probe into the Chicago Police Department there is concern a political change in Washington could impact the investigation.        

With a new president and new attorney general-designee, Senator Jeff Sessions, preparing to take office, Lori Lightfoot, head of the Chicago Police Board, says the new administration may emphasize new types of investigations.        

“It will not surprise me if there is a change in focus and that resources are devoted elsewhere away from the activities we’ve seen over the last eight years regarding police departments,” Lightfoot said in an interview.        

Dec. 7 marks the one-year anniversary of the Department of Justice announcing its investigation into the Chicago Police Department.  At a Washington press conference Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the Department would look, “into whether the Chicago police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law.”        

Her announcement came less than two weeks after the release of the Laquan McDonald video showing the 17-year old being shot 16-times by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder and has entered a plea of not guilty.          

The Justice Department, Lynch said, would investigate CPD’s use of deadly force; racial, ethnic and other disparities in its use of force; disciplinary actions; and the handling of allegations of misconduct.                    

According to a source with knowledge of the investigation, the Justice Department has found little wrong with the Chicago Police Department’s written policies but believes more training and supervision will be required. And there is concern that federal funds will dry up under the new administration to implement any change.          

Attorney Jeffrey Neslund, who along with Mike Robbins, represents the McDonald family, was asked, with the change in Washington, if he is worried the federal investigation will go away.        

“It could,” Neslund said. “I think and I hope that the investigation that the Justice Department is doing now is too far along the way for someone just to pull it all back.”        

In November there were five fatal police-involved shootings in Chicago. In the death of Kajuan Raye, according to the Chicago Police Department, a sergeant was stripped of his police powers after efforts thus far to find a weapon proved futile.        

Citing the ongoing investigation into police practices, the Department of Justice declined any comment.

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