Chicago police found to routinely exceed their authority

In Milwaukee, we've seen our share of conflicts between law enforcement and citizens. In December, former police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown was charged with first-degree reckless homicide for killing Sylville Smith in August. The fatal shooting of an African-American man, who was allegedly running from a traffic stop at the time, led to days and nights of protest and unrest.

Other cities have faced the same challenges of officer-involved shootings, reaching a crisis point within the past couple of years. Whether police acted within the law, or not, has been the focus of many heated discussions across the country-in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and perhaps no more so than in Chicago. A recent, groundbreaking report from the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Chicago Police Department used excessive force almost as a pattern of behavior.

What qualifies as excessive force?

The Justice Department's report took 13 months to complete, and was launched in response to the 2014 fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was shot 16 times as he walked away from officers. Some of the types of excessive or unjustified force that the Justice Department found include the police:

  • Firing their guns at cars and other vehicles without justification
  • Shooting at suspects who didn't present an immediate threat
  • Using their Tasers on people who didn't present a threat
  • Using force to punish people or retaliate against them

Not everyone is guilty

It's important to note that most police officers do their jobs within the scope of their authority. Dedicated law enforcement officers can be both effective and safe on duty-this is true in Chicago and everywhere else.

But in Chicago, there is now a mandate for change. Officers will wear body cameras; use-of-force policies have been changed. There's renewed focus on holding all officers accountable, and on improving training so that these types of incidents don't occur in the future.

In the heat of the moment, split-second decisions to use excessive force can inflict a lifetime of disability or end in death. If you suspect you're a victim of excessive force, especially if it resulted in arrest or injury, talk to an attorney about your options. 

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