Civil Rights Division of US Department of Justice hears from police crime victims
Ted Pearson, CAARPR
The U. S. government team investigating the Chicago Police Department heard testimony from 25 families of victims and survivors of police crimes on Wednesday March 23, 2016 at a special session organized by the team at Malcolm X College. The Department of Justice (DOJ) officially invited people to the event in response to letters to Loretta Lynch on December 10, 2015 and January 8, 2016, from the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which were accompanied by 53 formal complaints regarding police crimes in the Chicago Area. All those filing complaints received official invitations. Almost all of the victims of police crimes about whom complaints had been filed by members of their family were represented, some by many members of their families.
The team was from the Special Litigation Section of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division assigned to investigate the misuse and excessive force and other crimes by Chicago police.
People spoke passionately and eloquently about what had happened to their children and the way their families had been treated by police. Their sons had been murdered and tortured by officers of the Chicago Police Department as well as two suburban police departments. The attorneys and representatives from the DOJ seemed visibly moved by many of the stories they heard.
Almost every person speaking called for the DOJ to prosecute the police officers who have repeatedly committed acts of murder and torture against Black and Latino civilians in Chicago. Katelyn Smith, the Contract Community Outreach Specialist for the Special Litigation Section explained that the Civil Rights Division can only investigate “patterns and practices” by police departments that violate the Constitutional rights of people. However, she said after the close of the event that cases for which the statute of limitation had not expired would be conveyed to the DOJ Criminal Division for investigation and possible prosecution.
Some people pointed out in their verbal statements that the crime of torture continues as long as a victim remains in prison, put there by false confessions extracted through torture, and the statute of limitation doesn’t start until they are exonerated or released.
The result of the Civil Rights Division investigation will be released in a formal report, Smith said, and the DOJ will enter into discussions with the City and CPD regarding changes that must be made to comply with federal civil rights law. If the City and CPD balk at agreeing to the changes, the DOJ will bring a suit against them in Federal Court.
The people in attendance were very clear that the DOJ response to the letters from the Alliance was really a response to the mass upsurge against police murders and other crimes in Chicago. Until the almost daily demonstrations and other actions following the release of video showing the cold blooded murder of Laquan McDonald last November the DOJ had been unresponsive to repeated previous appeals for intervention and action. “That’s why we have to keep up the pressure,” one participant declared. “We can’t stop fighting for justice! Not for even a minute!”
“We need CPAC,” someone called out in the meeting, in response to the reports of police crimes, referring to the proposal by the Chicago Alliance for an all-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council. “Until we have true community control of the police,” someone else observed, “we will never have the ability to stop police crimes. Reports may be made and some changes may be forced on the police, but the only sure way to enforce them long term is through real community control like CPAC.”
In closing the session Smith encouraged people to spread the word that they are prepared to receive all complaints of police crimes and incidents of civil rights violations by police.
A copy of the complaint form is here. If you need support filling out the form and/or would like to file the form through the Alliance please call us at 312 939 2750 or email: [email protected]