Police Union Sues Chicago to Prevent Investigation of Officers Involved in Killing Teen: Report


Lisa Klein | Courthouse News Service

CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago’s police union sued the city this week to stop its inspector general from questioning officers that were on the scene when 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot and killed.

Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder by the Cook County State’s Attorney the same day in November that the city released the police dashcam video of the shooting after a court order to do so.

Van Dyke pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying he feared for his life when he shot the teenager 16 times.

According to Wednesday’s lawsuit, interim police superintendent John Escalante, who took over after Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Garry McCarthy during the McDonald scandal, “requested the inspector general to conduct an ‘administrative investigation’ into the shooting and whether officers made false statements in official reports, and whether any officer obstructed or interfered with the investigation of the shooting.”

The Chicago inspector general required officers, including Van Dyke, to appear for “a court reported statement in relation to the shooting,” the union claims, at a time when “at least one union member is charged with murder, and there is a political witch hunt to charge all others.”

Van Dyke’s partner Joseph Walsh and detective David March were put on desk duty in January pending the inspector’s investigation, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

Walsh, who kicked McDonald’s knife away from him after he was shot, said in a police report that McDonald was swinging it at the officers on the scene and “he believed McDonald was attacking Walsh and officer Van Dyke with the knife and attempting to kill them when the shots were fired,” the newspaper reported.

Several other officers claimed that McDonald was moving towards them as well, although the dashcam video shows him turned away from police and walking away from them.

When March reviewed all of the reports and video of the incident, he wrote in a report that “the recovered in-car camera video … was viewed and found to be consistent with the accounts of all of the witnesses,” according to the Tribune.

The Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7’s lawsuit says Emanuel “has publicly stated that criminal charges against the on scene officers are likely,” and the Cook County States’ Attorney “has issued press reports confirming her office’s ongoing criminal investigation of all officers involved, even peripherally, in the shooting.”

“As the superintendent has made very clear, any officer proven to have engaged in wrongdoing will face swift punishment, and any officer found to have lied in the course of their work will be fired,” Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins told the Tribune in January.

According to the union, that policy should protect the officers from answering the inspector’s questions.

The union’s lawsuit says the inspector “has indicated that it will not provide Van Dyke or any other involved officer their constitutional rights concerning self-incrimination.”

The Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7 says it filed a grievance regarding the questioning of its officers and says that Illinois policy states that “labor disputes of this type be resolved through binding arbitration.” However, the March 16 complaint adds, the inspector “has refused to postpone scheduled interrogations.”

The union seeks an injunction to stop the officer interrogations until it gets the arbitration hearing it requested.

“We cannot comment on pending litigation, however, the city supports the inspector general’s work and the United States Department of Justice’s work in this case. Our hope is that their investigations will provide the answers everyone in Chicago deserves,” Bill McCaffrey of Chicago’s Legal Department said in a statement to Courthouse News.

Jennifer Russell, the attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge No. 7, did not return a voicemail seeking comment.

Published by Courthouse News Service.