There are calls today for renewed scrutiny of the Chicago Police Department and the State's Attorney's office in the wake of the Laquan McDonald video release. Groups from the Chicago Urban League to the City Council's African-American caucus want investigations into the police department's handling of the case.
Was there a cover up? And why did the State's Attorney wait a year to bring a murder charge against former CPD officer Jason Van Dyke?
The Chicago Urban League is calling for a federal investigation into the patterns and practices of the Chicago Police Department, why excessive force has been used against African-Americans and why disciplinary action is so hard to come by. They join City Council’s black caucus in focusing their ire on the police department in the wake of the McDonald case – the caucus again calling for the firing of Superintendent Garry McCarthy and the resignation of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
“It is unfathomable and unacceptable that it would take a year when all of the facts of this case were known the night it happened,” said Ald. Howard Brookins (21st Ward). “It is unfathomable when there is no subjective interpretation of this video. It is unfathomable that we have a state’s attorney in Anita Alvarez saying the reason why she delayed the decision was she wanted to have a press conference carefully timed with the U.S. Attorney and the FBI.”
"Chicago Tonight" asked Alvarez whether or not she would have charged Van Dyke with murder without the impending release of the video; her response was "absolutely" – that she’d decided three or so weeks ago that the murder charge was justified. Nonetheless, she felt she needed an airtight case that the use of deadly force was not justified before she could bring her case.
“My ethics require me to do a thorough investigation, to look at everything, to go through all the witnesses and the evidence and make sure that justice will be serve,” Alvarez said. “I make no apologies for the length of time of the investigation because every prosecutor knows these decisions take a long time for a variety of reasons.”
The original narrative that emerged on Oct. 20, 2014 was that McDonald posed a threat to police officers but the video and murder charge refutes that.
Original reports that McDonald was wielding a knife and was moving toward the police officers came from spokesperson Pat Camden from the police union – the Fraternal Order of Police. Until earlier this year the police department didn’t send an official spokesperson to crime scenes, so the FOP would pick up the slack and ultimately be the one to give a first-person account to reporters on the scene.
Sources within the FOP paint a shoddy picture, one where information is gathered second and third hand and investigators and police officers involved in the incidents are oftentimes not even interviewed. The worry is the police union exists to protect its members; that perhaps the information they provide can be slanted in that direction. The city has since begun disseminating its own spokespeople to crime scenes again.
But the president of the Fraternal Order of Police tells us that after viewing the video, he doesn’t see any evidence that the spokesperson was lying about what happened that night.
“The comments are pretty much in line with what occurred that night, with the damage of the vehicle, the confrontations that occurred prior to that incident on Pulaski, there aren’t any statements that weren’t consistent with what happened at the scene,” said FOP President Dean Angelo.
The FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office could be looking at the conduct of the police department and the FOP in the aftermath of the McDonald shooting.
Anita Alvarez says she hasn’t yet found evidence of a police cover up.
“So far from what we’ve seen, we haven’t seen that. However, the investigation continues and our federal partners are still going. I’m open if there’s any information that proves otherwise, but we have not uncovered that at this point.”
Jason Van Dyke appears in court again Monday where judge will reconsider whether or not to hold him without bail after watching video.
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