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DOJ to open investigation into Chicago police department

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Monday announced [press release] that it will be opening a full investigation into the Chicago Police Department (CPD) [official website] following the 2014 police shooting death of a black teenager. US Attorney General Loretta Lynch [official profile] said at the news briefing that the DOJ will specifically look into the CPD's use of force, including deadly force. They will also look into whether there are systematic violations of the Constitution or federal law by the CPD, as well as racial, ethnic and other disparities in use of force, and its systems of accountability. Lynch further stated, "[b]uilding trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve is one of my highest priorities as Attorney General. ... The Department of Justice intends to do everything we can to foster those bonds and create safer and fairer communities across the country." The announcement came almost two weeks after protests occurred [Reuters report] in Chicago following the release of a 2014 squad car dashboard video showing officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times.

Police use of force has been a controversial issue across the US recently. Last month Van Dyke was charged [JURIST report] with first-degree murder for the death of McDonald in October 2014. City officials have been sharply criticized for waiting over one year since the incident to release the footage of the officer shooting the teenager and to bring charges against Van Dyke. In September Baltimore City Circuit Judge Barry Williams rejected motions [JURIST report] to drop charges against six police officers implicated in the case of Freddie Gray, a black man who was injured in police custody and later died in April. Earlier this year Judge Edgar Dickson of the South Carolina Circuit Court declared a mistrial [JURIST report] in the murder case against a former police chief for the 2011 killing of an unarmed black man. After a grand jury decided not to indict [JURIST report] the Ferguson police officer who shot and killed Micheal Brown [USA Today Timeline], there was a large uproar from the Ferguson community that led to mass protests and violence in some instances. The case had reached international news with Amnesty International reporting [JURIST report] human rights abuses by Ferguson Police in late October. The American Civil Liberties Union also published a report [JURIST report] arguing that increased militarization of police forces is putting citizens at risk rather than protecting them.

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