Task force accuses Chicago police of institutional racism

16-year-old fatally shot by Chicago police
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Story highlights

  • Task force says police "have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color"
  • Chicago police officer shot and killed 16-year-old boy Monday night, reports say
  • Hundreds protest shooting; two arrested for blocking traffic, police say

(CNN)Chicago is once again seething with rage after a deadly shooting by a police officer, the latest in a spate of violence that has strained relations between the community and law enforcement.

Hundreds of residents took to the streets Tuesday night, one day after authorities identified the person shot and killed by police as 16-year-old Pierre Loury.
    The turmoil on the streets came on the eve of a momentous day for the besieged police force:
    - In a blistering report, a mayoral task force said police "have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color" and have alienated blacks and Hispanics with the use of force and a longstanding code of silence.
    Task force chairwoman Lori Lightfoot said the report was "not an indictment of the entire police department" but stressed that "a culture of accountability ... is fundamentally lacking."
    - The City Council approved more than $6 million in settlements stemming from the deaths of two men in police custody.
    - Aldermen confirmed Chicago Police veteran Eddie Johnson as superintendent in a city shaken by violent crime and deep-seated distrust of law enforcement.
    On Tuesday night, two protesters were taken into custody for blocking traffic, police spokesman Ron Gaines said.
    They were among an estimated 200 to 300 demonstrators who came out in reaction to Monday night's shooting.
    It occurred after officers tried to stop a vehicle "sought in connection with an earlier shooting incident," according to Chicago police.
    One person left the vehicle on foot, "leading to an armed confrontation between the fleeing offender and the officer," police said.
    Police said "a weapon was recovered on scene" but it wasn't immediately clear to whom the weapon belonged.
    A "comprehensive use of force investigation" was being conducted, with the officer placed on administrative duty, police said.
    But in a police department said to be plagued by systemic racism, it remained to be seen whether the latest officer-involved shooting and others that follow it will be handled any differently.

    A crisis of confidence

    The Police Accountability Task Force, created by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December, released its report Wednesday, a scathing rebuke accusing the department of institutional racism and describing its accountability system as broken.
    "The community's lack of trust in CPD is justified," the report said. "There is substantial evidence that people of color -- particularly African-Americans -- have had disproportionately negative experiences with the police over an extended period of time.
    "There is also substantial evidence that these experiences continue today through enforcement and other practices that disproportionately affect and often show little respect for people of color."
    During the last eight years, 74% of people killed or injured by Chicago police officers were African-American, the report said.
    The task force found that 72% of people stopped by Chicago police in 2014 were African-American, and 17% were Hispanic.
    "The task force heard over and over again from a range of voices, particularly from African-Americans, that some CPD officers are racist, have no respect for the lives and experiences of people of color and approach every encounter with people of color as if the person, regardless of age, gender or circumstance, is a criminal."
    In December, Emanuel asked for the resignation of Garry McCarthy as police superintendent and announced the formation of the task force to review how the city trains and oversees its police officers.
    The panel included five Chicagoans who have been leaders in the justice system.
    McCarthy's ouster followed protests related to the October 2014 fatal shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald by a white officer and the long delay over the public release of dashboard camera footage in McDonald's death.
    "McDonald's shooting became the tipping point for long-simmering community anger," the task force report said. "The videotape was painful, horrific and illuminating in ways that irrefutably exemplified what those in communities of color have long said, and shocked and stirred the conscience of those in other neighborhoods."

    New police superintendent

    For months, Chicago has convulsed with a staggering number of homicides as well as public outcry over controversial police shootings.
    Wednesday's appointment of Johnson as interim police superintendent was seen as a bid to stem a wave of violence and clean up a troubled department.
    The alleged police misconduct has weighed heavily on the city coffers, including $6.4 million in court settlements approved Wednesday.
    In 2014 and 2015, the financial toll of misconduct fell on the shoulders of Chicago taxpayers, who shelled out $106 million for misconduct-related settlements, judgments, legal fees and other costs, according to an analysis by the Better Government Association.

    Record-breaking homicide stats

    Why is Chicago seething?
    To many Chicago residents, the title of Spike Lee's satirical movie about the city's homicide explosion, "Chi-Raq" -- as in Iraq -- isn't much of a stretch.
    January saw 51 killings, making it the deadliest month on record in at least 16 years.
    February ended with a death toll of 45 killings, and March recorded another 46 homicides, according to police.
    That's 142 killings during the first three months of the year -- compared with 82 during the same period in 2015, police said.
    In all of 2015, there were 480.
    The Chicago Tribune has said the body count makes it the deadliest start to a year in the city in nearly two decades.
    Police have been trying to fight back, reporting that gun and homicide arrests are up.
    Wednesday's confirmation of Johnson as superintendent by the City Council occurred after the mayor circumvented the normal selection process to name him.

    The price of misconduct

    On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council approved a $4.95 million settlement in a lawsuit stemming from the death of Philip Coleman, who died in a hospital in 2012 after being dragged in handcuffs out of his cell in a police station and down a hallway.
    Coleman, 38, was found to have died from an adverse reaction to an antipsychotic drug administered at the hospital.
    A federal judge said in December that the Chicago police employee who dragged Coleman out of his cell used excessive force and is liable for damages.
    The officer's supervisor in the police station lockup is also liable for not stopping the misconduct, according to U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly.
    Coleman's father, Percy, sued the city of Chicago and some police officers, alleging their repeated use of excessive force was responsible for his son's death.
    "My son was working on his second degree," Percy Coleman told CNN this week. "He was running a restaurant for us because I had open-heart surgery and I couldn't do it anymore and he was concerned about my welfare."
    Jeffrey Coleman, the victim's brother, said, "For me and the family, it's been rough to yell all this time and shout to the rafters about seeking justice for our family member, my brother, and to fall on deaf ears."

    Expensive settlements

    The City Council also approved a $1.5 million settlement for the death of Justin Cook, who died in police custody in September 2014.
    Cook was pulled over by police after running a stop sign and continuing for several blocks. Police then detained him.
    He suffered an asthma attack while in police custody and attempted to tell officers he was having difficulty breathing and needed his inhaler, according to the lawsuit. The suit accused police of failing to provide appropriate medical attention.
    Cook died even though another police official later realized the prisoner could not breathe and ordered his handcuffs taken off.
    Chicago's municipal government -- under Emanuel and former Mayor Richard M. Daley -- has spent nearly $642 million on alleged police misconduct from 2004 through 2015, according to interviews and city records, the Better Government Association analysis reported.
    Alderman Anthony Beale complained that vast sums of money were being spent on settlements without enough being done to improve police training or to weed out bad cops.
    "Every month we're seeing where we're paying out huge amounts of settlements," he said. "But officers are still on the job. They're still getting a paycheck. The taxpayers have to absorb these millions of dollars, and then they still have to absorb these rogue officers out on the street that are continuing to do these same things over and over again with no repercussions."
    The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether Chicago police have made a habit of violating the law or the U.S. Constitution in their policing, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in December.
    The "pattern-and-practice" probe, as it's known, will focus on use of force, deadly force, accountability and how the department "tracks and treats" those incidents, she said. Emanuel has promised cooperation.
    The task force report said, "Reform is possible if there is a will and a commitment. But where reform must begin is with an acknowledgment of the sad history and present conditions that have left the people totally alienated from the police, and afraid for their physical and emotional safety."