Everything you should know about Chicago police accountability

A judge’s order that the dashboard video of Chicago Police Department officer Jason Van Dyke shooting to death 17-year old Laquan McDonald has set off an avalanche of developments that continue to unfold.

On Monday U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced the U.S. Department of Justice is opening a probe into the pattern and practices of the Chicago Police Department.

That probe had been called for by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and supported by demonstrators and many politicians locally and nationally.

Investigations that expose, influence and inform. Emailed directly to you.


At first Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed his own panel of Chicago lawyers, said he opposed the idea of a Justice Department investigation.

Quickly he changed course and said he supported the investigation.

But the Justice Department probe is only one of many reverberations. Protesters took to the streets. The police chief was fired. The Cook County board president, among others, demanded the resignation of State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who only charged Van Dyke as the tape was about to be released. Alvarez herself insisted she had no intention of stepping down.

Questions have spread, too, to the reports of other officers on the scene of McDonald’s shooting. Friday evening the CPD released the officers’ reports that offered a sharply different version than what appears on video.

Monday afternoon Mayor Emanuel has scheduled a press conference with the police superintendent to talk about police accountability. The Tribune on Sunday raised questions about the manner that the police department investigates complaints of police abuse. A database built from records released after a lawsuit shows that a tiny number of complaints are sustained.

Meanwhile, questions of police conduct in other cases have intensified. Mayor Emanuel said he intends to release the video from a second shooting, of a man named Ronald Johnson and State’s Attorney Alvarez scheduled a press conference this morning into that investigation. A U.S. magistrate refused to order the release of a video in a third case.

Down at the courthouse, meanwhile, the trial of a Chicago police officer accused of shoving his gun down a suspect’s throat is to begin today.