Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday that the Department of Justice will investigate the Chicago Police Department and whether it "has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law," according to a tweet from Fox News. The federal probe was launched after Chicago police released dash-cam video footage of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot 16 times by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, according to WLS, a local ABC affiliate. Lynch said Monday that the DOJ's investigation is entirely independent and is not tied to "the findings of other inquiries."
In her announcement, Lynch said the DOJ would examine a few issues "related to the Chicago Police Department's use of force, including its use of deadly force." She said it would also examine disparities such as race and ethnicity in the department's use of force as well as the department's mechanisms for keeping officers accountable when they do use force against citizens, according to Fox News' tweet.
Since the dash-cam footage of McDonald's death was released, protests in Chicago have been non stop. Lynch said that the investigation would use both the department and the community and would evaluate how the vital connection between the two is working in Chicago, according to the Associated Press:
This mistrust from members of the community makes it more difficult to gain help with investigations, to encourage victims and witnesses of crimes to speak up, and to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of public safety officials. And when suspicion and hostility is allowed to fester, it can erupt into unrest.
Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder on Nov. 24, which is more than a year after McDonald's death. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the department are under intense scrutiny for the timing of the video's release, which happened just hours after Van Dyke was charged with murder and long after the incident occurred. Emanuel also announced Thursday that the city would release dash-cam footage of the death of Ronald Johnson, who was 25 when he died more than a year ago, according to CNN.
Officer George Hernandez shot and killed Johnson in the same month that McDonald was killed — October 2014. Police statements said Johnson pointed a weapon at pursuing officers after attempting to run away on foot, so Hernandez shot him, according to CNN. Johnson's mother has accused the city of a cover up and said that the video will show that Johnson didn't do what officers say he did.
Similarly, in McDonald's case, video of the incident contradicts what officers claim, which is that McDonald charged Van Dyke with a knife before Van Dyke shot him, according to CNN. It's unclear whether McDonald ever actually approached Van Dyke or officers in the video, and, contrary to Van Dyke's claims, it doesn't appear that McDonald continued moving or trying to get up after Van Dyke fired his first shot. These cases, among others, will be investigated by the DOJ in what Lynch described as a thorough and impartial investigation.