Charges have been made that a “culture of cover-up,” leading to the quashing of several dashcam videos proving police misconduct, has sparked months of street protests in Chicago and even led to the firing of an investigator of the city’s Independent Police Review Authority.
As the city on Lake Michigan remains engulfed in controversy over dashcam footage of the 2014 police-involved shooting of 17-year-old teenager Laquan McDonald, other videos of police shootings are dripping out one at a time, revealing similarly questionable incidents.
On January 14, for instance, the city finally released the video of the death of Cedrick Chatman, a 17-year-old carjacking suspect who was shot by the CPD in 2013.
According to the written reports, Chatman was shot by officers after pointing what they thought was a gun. It turned out to be a black cell phone case.
Last week’s release of that video brought protesters to an annual breakfast dedicated to the first black mayor of the city, an event that is usually well attended and harmoniously supported by Chicago’s African-American community.
But in 2013, the original independent investigator in the case, Lorenzo Davis, ruled the shooting unjustified and that the officer involved, Kevin Fry, violated department procedures.
Describing what he saw on the video, Davis said:
I pay most attention to Officer Fry. Mr. Chatman is simply trying to get away. He’s running as fast as he can away from the officers. Officer (Lou) Toth is right behind him; he’s doing the right thing. He’s pursuing him. He’s trying to capture him, while Officer Fry, on the other hand, has both of his hands on his weapon. He is in a shooter’s position. He is looking for a clear shot.
But after he delivered his ruling, Davis says officials began pressuring him to alter his decision to conform to police accounts, and just after his ruling he was fired.
“I was fired not just for that case but for several cases including officer involved shooting cases and other excessive force cases,” Davis said. “But I refused to change my findings in a number of cases. That was simply the last one.”
Just as the department hoped, Davis’s replacement dutifully reclassified the incident as a justified shooting.
Torreya Hamilton, Davis’s attorney, has called the whole thing proof of rampant corruption.
The release of the McDonald video, Hamilton said, was a “perfect storm of exposure,” revealing the corruption. “It was very difficult given the timing of things for our leaders to deny that there was a coverup,” she insisted.
Michael Oppenheimer, the attorney for the family of another man shot by police, said that if police in the city become used to the fact that their dashcam videos will no longer be hidden behind a “culture of covering up,” it may make them properly observe department policy.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston, or email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.