7 Chicago officers may face firing over false Laquan McDonald reports

The recommendation follow nearly two years of protests, investigations, and reforms after the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald, age 17.

Nancy Stone/Reuters
Jason Van Dyke approaches the bench during a hearing at Leighton Criminal Courts Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, August 18, 2016.

Following an investigation into the 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager in Chicago, the Chicago police superintendent is recommending that seven officers be fired for providing false reports on his death.

Superintendent Eddie Johnson based his decision on the Chicago inspector general’s report, he said Thursday. That report recommended firing 10 officers, The Chicago Tribune reports, but two have retired, and Mr. Johnson found "insufficient evidence" that the tenth officer had violated Rule 14, which prohibits making false written or oral reports.

"Each of these decisions was based on a methodical and substantive review of the facts by both internal and external counsel. Each officer will have their right to due process," Johnson wrote in an email to officers, according to the Tribune. "It is my belief that through these challenges we can take the lessons learned to become a better Department and in turn, give you additional resources to do your jobs effectively."

Laquan, age 17, was armed with a small knife when police officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot him 16 times as he walked down the street in October 2014, after officers responded to reports that he was breaking into vehicles. Officers who were at the scene supported Mr. Van Dyke's account of the event, saying that he shot in self-defense, suggesting that Laquan had lunged at police. 

In November 2015, officials released footage from Van Dyke's dashcam video that contradicted the officers' earlier accounts, sparking more calls for reform and accountability. In December, the US Justice Department announced it would launch an investigation into the Chicago Police Department. 

Johnson had already stripped the seven officers of their policing powers, but the final decision on whether they will be fired is up to Chicago's police board.

It took 13 months for the Chicago Police Department to release the dashboard camera footage of Laquan’s death, and only then after being ordered to do so by a judge. That day, Van Dyke was charged with six counts of first degree murder and one count of official misconduct. He has pleaded not guilty. 

The public outrage following the delay in release and the grizzly subject matter of the footage led to a continuing investigation. A task force assembled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who weathered criticism for his handling of the crisis, concluded that police data "gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color," prompting reforms to improve investigations and hold officers accountable.

"This is an official report that finally acknowledges the reality of racism in Chicago and the lack of police accountability, unchecked patterns of abuse and violence," Craig Futterman, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, told the Monitor in May. "There has never been this widespread fundamental acknowledgement of what the issues are and what the problems are before."

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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