With federal police review, Chicago families see second chance for justice

Many Chicago families have been pushing for formal inquiries into the deaths of their relatives following altercations with police officers since long before the release of the video of Laquan McDonald's death.

M. Spencer Green/AP
Chicago's Janet Lindsey Ferguson (r.) and her husband Fredrick Ferguson hold a poster bearing a photograph of her teenage son, Rickey Childs, who was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer in 2012. After the recently released video of a Chicago officer firing 16 bullets into the body of Laquan McDonald, she has hope that the black teenager’s death, and the murder charge against the white officer, the first in decades to be charged with a crime for an on-duty shooting, will prompt someone to take another look at her son's case.

After the US Justice Department launched a federal investigation against the Chicago Police Department this month, the relatives of other people killed by members of the force are beginning to come forward with calls for inquiries.

Federal investigators will look into the possibility of pervasive civil rights violations in the department, the second largest police force in the country, said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Dec. 9.

“When community members feel that they are not receiving that kind of policing, when they feel ignored, let down or mistreated by public safety officials, there are profound consequences for the wellbeing of their communities, there are profound consequences for the rule of law and for the countless law enforcement officers who strive to fulfill their duties with professionalism and integrity,” Ms. Lynch said.

In November, the Chicago police were ordered to release a graphic 2014 patrol car video showing the police officer, Jason Van Dyke, shooting the unarmed teenager, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. The officer was charged soon after with first-degree murder.

Since the video was released demands for investigations into old cases are streaming in to headquarters.

Another police video recently released shows a Chicago officer shooting a person in the back. The city is being sued over at least 24 other police shootings, while police investigators are being pushed to reopen dozens of additional cases that have been closed.

Families who lost relatives in shootings are now beginning to pressure the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA), which oversees the investigations, viewing the Laquan video as a way to reopen cases long forgotten. 

The IPRA is already looking into police abuse against a man held in custody, after another video inside a Chicago Police Department jail cell was released.

Dana Cross lost her son Calvin in a 2011 police shooting. While the family received a $2 million settlement awarded after an IPRA ruling, Ms. Cross told the AP she would still like to reopen the case to seek justice.

"I have been trying to figure out what to do, who can I talk to and how I can get my story heard but I was just tired," she said. "Then when the Laquan McDonald case came up, it gave me the push I needed."

Another Chicago mother, Janet Lindsey Ferguson, said she also believes there was foul play in the police shooting death of her teenage son in 2011 and has since renewed pleas for an inquiry following the release of the Laquan video.

"That video showed what we are going through out here, what these police officers are covering up," said Gloria Pinex, another mother who lost a son, Darius, in a 2011 Chicago police shooting. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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