CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department is just the latest law enforcement agency investigated by the Department of Justice for possible civil-rights violations.
Federal officials have launched 69 such probes since 1994, beginning with the Pittsburgh Police Bureau in 1996. The Obama administration launched 25 of them, including one in Baltimore, where Justice Department officials announced Thursday that a court-enforceable consent decree had been signed to improve policing.
The Justice Department released the findings of its Chicago investigation on Friday. It found that police have been violating people’s civil rights for years, permitting racial bias against blacks, using excessive force and killing people who didn’t pose a threat.
Here’s a look at the findings of some of the more high-profile investigations:
A Justice Department investigation launched after the April 2015 death in police custody of a shackled black man, Freddie Gray, found that officers routinely stopped large numbers of people in poor, black neighborhoods for dubious reasons and unlawfully arrested residents merely for speaking out in ways police deemed disrespectful. The investigation’s findings were released last August and an agreement between the city and Justice Department was approved Thursday. Attorney General Loretta Lynch had pressed Baltimore officials to conclude talks on the police reform agreement before President Barack Obama leaves office next week.
A 2015 investigation of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, that was launched after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, found patterns of racial bias by police and the municipal court system, which raised money through fines and other fees off the backs of African-Americans. Six months of talks led to a reform agreement, which, among other things, required outfitting all officers with body cameras. The city council initially rejected the agreement, citing its costs. But it later approved the deal after receiving assurances that the costs would be a more manageable $2.3 million over three years.
An 18-month investigation of Cleveland police was spurred partly by a 2012 incident in which police killed two unarmed black suspects by firing 137 shots into their car. In addition to finding that police too often resorted to excessive force, the 2014 federal report found the city’s civilian complaint system to be “disorganized and ineffective.” A monitor last year said in a court filing that Cleveland wasn’t fulfilling its reform obligations under a 2015 consent decree, including to draw up a detailed plan on how it will invest in equipment like cruisers and in-car computers to modernize a force.