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article imageChicago releases videos of police shootings

By Nova Safo (AFP)     Jun 3, 2016 in World

It's a scene that could have come straight out of a Hollywood action movie: a video of a minivan suddenly careening backwards at high speed. It almost collides with a group of police officers, who draw their guns and shoot.

The whole thing lasts less than 20 seconds. And it is very real.

The footage was part of a trove of videos, audio recordings and materials related to 101 active investigations of police conduct in Chicago, just months after angry protests over a video of the 2014 fatal shooting of a black teen by a white officer.

Authorities in the crime-wracked Midwestern US city are hoping to repair relations with a population wary of its police force, which is under investigation by the Justice Department for possible civil rights violations.

"We all agree that there is a lack of trust and that increased transparency is essential to rebuilding that trust," Sharon Fairley, who heads the city's body in charge of police oversight, told a press conference Friday.

A majority of the cases included in the data release are labeled "firearm discharge," meaning an officer-involved shooting, and they represent the totality of all open cases by Fairley's Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA).

But she cautioned that the materials released may not convey all the facts in each case, and that her agency has not made judgments on the legality of officers' actions.

"We all agree that there is a lack of trust and that increased transparency is essential to reb...
"We all agree that there is a lack of trust and that increased transparency is essential to rebuilding that trust," Sharon Fairley, pictured here on December 7, 2015, told a press conference on June 3, 2016
Scott Olson, Getty/AFP/File

The IPRA has faced criticism for being too slow to act in evaluating police actions, including in the case of Laquan McDonald -- the 17-year-old whose killing was at the heart of the protests this winter.

The officer who shot him, Jason Van Dyke, was not charged with first-degree murder for more than a year after the incident.

The city's chief prosecutor Anita Alvarez filed the charges just before the graphic video of the shooting was released, which itself only happened after a judge compelled the city to do so.

Alvarez lost her bid for re-election in March.

- Old cases, new details -

Some of the materials in the release related to other headline-making cases from recent years.

In the dramatic video of the minivan shooting, one man, David Strong, was killed, and two others, LeLand Dudley and John Givens, were injured. The three men were allegedly fleeing the scene of a robbery before the shooting unfolded.

The initial incident report -- which is among the written materials released Friday -- says that Strong was shot in the chest, head, shoulder, abdomen, arms, wrists, left hand, right knee and right thigh.

Strong had a lengthy arrest record. Dudley and Givens were later charged with murder, but sued the city over alleged use of excessive force.

Another case was that of the police shooting of Darius Pinex, who was killed by two officers who mistook his car for a different one involved in a shooting earlier in the day.

In this screen grab from a video released by the Chicago Police on November 24  2015  police walk pa...
In this screen grab from a video released by the Chicago Police on November 24, 2015, police walk past Laquan McDonald after he was shot by police in Chicago, Illinois on October 24, 2014
, Chicago Police / HO/AFP/File

A federal judge accused a city lawyer of hiding evidence in that case, including an audio recording of a police dispatcher that contradicted the officers' version of events.

Following the release of the video in the McDonald case, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel created the Police Accountability Task Force. Friday's release of case files is an effort to implement at least some of the reforms suggested by the panel.

That task force said racial disparities were at least partially to blame for strained relations between Chicago's police and its citizens.

Of the 404 police shootings between 2008 and 2015, 74 percent were of African-Americans, the task force said in its final report. Chicago’s overall population is only a third African-American.

"The relationship between the community, particularly the communities of color in the city, and the police department is still at a very low degree," said Flint Taylor, a long-time critic of the Chicago Police Department.

Flint -- who has been working on civil rights cases in the city for 47 years, as the founding member of the People's Law Office-- said Friday's release of case files was an important step, but not the last one.

"Really, piecemeal type of things by themselves aren't going to work," Flint said.

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