Top Changes in 2 Years Since Release of Laquan McDonald Shooting Video

In this Oct. 20, 2014 frame from dash-cam video provided by the Chicago Police Department, Laquan McDonald, right, walks down the street moments before being fatally shot by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke sixteen times in Chicago

With Friday marking the two-year anniversary of the release of dashcam video that showed Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times, there’s much that’s changed.

As the city and its leaders have face a tidal wave of criticism, Chicago has seen and imposed wholesale revisions or reforms to many of its institutions, structures and policies.

— Hours before the video was released by order of a Cook County judge, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, then lead by Anita Alvarez, approved first-degree murder charges against Van Dyke. His case marked the first time in Chicago history that an officer was charged with murder for an on-duty shooting. The case is still working its way through the court.

Three other officers who were at the scene of the Oct. 20, 2014 shooting in the 4100 block of South Pulaski were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct. Several police supervisors, who deemed the shooting justified, retired. The department’s top brass at the time all saw the video within 48 hours of the shooting, and all deemed it justified.

— The video — which shows Van Dyke firing at McDonald even after he had collapsed in the middle of Pulaski — enraged much of Chicago and sparked days of protests that wove across the city. Marchers called for the resignations of Alvarez, then-CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, all of who were accused of sitting on the video for more than a year for political gain.

One week after the 2015 mayoral election runoff, the City Council approved a $5 million settlement to the McDonald family before a lawsuit was ever filed.

In a speech to the City Council in December 2015, Emanuel cited a “code of silence” within the CPD.

— Saying his police superintendent had become “a distraction,” Emanuel fired McCarthy that same month, installing First Deputy Supt. John Escalante as the interim head of the department.

Emanuel, hoping to ease boiling tensions between police and the City’s black community, tasked the Chicago Police Board with conducting a nationwide search for the CPD’s next superintendent. Ultimately the mayor circumvented the process and tapped Eddie Johnson for the job in March 2016, even though Johnson, then the department’s Chief of Patrol, did not submit his name for the job.

McCarthy has since become a vocal critic of Emanuel and has had his name floated as running for mayor.

— Shortly after the video’s release, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation in the practices of CPD.

In a report released in January 2017, the DOJ found that CPD officers shot at fleeing suspects who weren’t an immediate threat, used force to retaliate against people, failed to address racially discriminatory behavior within the department, and put their own officers at risk.

The report alleged widespread and repeated violations of the Constitution. It slammed the police department for failing to investigate most cases use of force cases and whitewashing the cases it does open. Interviews of officers involved in shootings and other incidents, the DOJ found, were done in a way to get information that helps the officer rather than getting at the truth.

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