In a nearly unprecedented move in Chicago, the agency responsible for investigating cases of police misconduct has released hundreds of videos, audio recordings and other evidence from more than 100 incidents in the city.
The move is the latest in a citywide effort to restore public trust in the embattled police force following the fatal October 2014 shooting of black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, whose death at the hands of a white police officer prompted outrage across the city.
The Independent Police Review Authority made public Friday a website with evidence involving 101 cases dating back to 2008. Videos are listed in a searchable database on the site, which warns viewers of graphic content.
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Citing a new policy, the city aims to post evidence from open investigations on the site within 60 days of an incident.
“We all agree there is a lack of trust and increased transparency is necessary to restore that trust,” said IPRA Administrator Sharon Fairely, who was named to the role in the wake of the McDonald shooting uproar. “We are planning to be more transparent with our outcomes. Hopefully people will see how we reach our conclusions.”
The evidence posted online includes videos, audio and police reports, though not all cases are related to police shootings.
Among the videos are footage of incidents involving David Strong, Ishmael Jamison, Michael Cote, Zainul Hussein, Lisa Simmons and Jeremiah Smith, and Terrence Clarke.
Strong was gunned down in 2012 as he and three others tried to escape from a robbery attempt on the city's West Side while Jamison was shot and tazed numerous times after allegedly attacking passengers and the driver of a CTA bus. Hussein was shot while police responded to what witnesses described as "a fight between men wielding baseball bats."
Cote, of Michigan, was shot in 2014 after being stopped in the city for allegedly smashing into parked cars. Police allege Cote accelerated toward officers before being shot.
Simmons and Smith sued police for alleged brutality after dashcam video last year showed officers responding to a block party slamming Simmons onto a car hood and later punching Smith. The lawsuit has since been settled for $100,000.
Clarke was repeatedly punched at the Portillo's on Ontario by an off-duty officer working as a security guard. Clarke and his family were dining at the Portillo's following a 2015 Stanley Cup game when they were asked to leave as the restaurant was closing. A scuffle ensued and the officer can be seen punching Clarke repeatedly. The officer says he was provoked by Clarke when he threw a cup of cheese at him.
The city has struggled to regain the public’s trust amid an uptick in shootings this year and claims of racism and cover-ups in the department battling an image of secrecy. More than 60 people were shot over Memorial Day weekend in the city, topping the number of shootings seen over the holiday weekend last year.
"The release and availability of this evidence illustrates the challenges our officers face every day when they put their lives on the line to protect the city of Chicago," Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement. "I have often said that CPD is only as effective as the faith and trust the community has in it and I believe that this will go a long way in promoting transparency."
Since video footage showing McDonald’s shooting was released last year, the city has released police reports, emails between city officials on the case, and footage showing several other incidents of alleged police misconduct. The Department of Justice also launched a probe into the department and IPRA began a historic review of all closed officer-involved shootings in the city.
Last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to disband IPRA and instead create a new Community Oversight Board “comprised of Chicago city residents.” He also planned to create a new Public Safety Inspector General to audit and monitor policing in Chicago.
While the new policy surrounding misconduct investigations is similar to those in certain cities, such as Seattle, many other cities nationwide still take months, even years to release footage to the public.
"While I am pleased that Chicago is taking this important next step in our effort to be more transparent on these issues, we know there is a lot more work to do," Emanuel said in a statement. "This new policy is one piece of a much larger effort to restore trust and repair relationships between law enforcement and our communities."