Chicago police disciplines officers for improper camera use

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 06, 2016 5:52 PM

By Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Chicago Police Department, which is under a federal civil rights investigation over its use of force, has disciplined 22 officers and supervisors over the past two weeks for failing to properly operate vehicle cameras, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Chicago police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have faced increased criticism over police actions since late November, after the city released a 2014 squad car video showing a white officer shooting to death Laquan McDonald, a black teenager.

The video, which led to murder charges against Officer Jason Van Dyke, lacked audio. Another recently released 2014 video showing the police shooting to death Ronald Johnson also had no sound, leading to questions over how cameras were being used.

The use of force by law enforcement against minorities has become the focus of national debate due to high-profile killings of African-Americans by mainly white officers. Citizen and officer videos of arrests and killings have heightened scrutiny of police behavior.

Interim Chicago Police Superintendent John Escalante reissued a general order on proper use of vehicle cameras around Christmas, and there has since been a 75 percent increase in the number of videos uploaded at the end of officer tours of duty, said spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

"It was a reminder that this order exists and there will be accountability," Guglielmi said.

The discipline ranged from a formal reprimand to three days unpaid suspension. Guglielmi said a variety of issues, mostly technical, led to the discipline, including not synchronizing audio and not uploading video at the end of a tour.

Dean Angelo, president of the Chicago chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, was not immediately available for comment.

The discipline was made public on the same day as the funeral of Bettie Jones, 55, a grandmother who was accidentally shot and killed by police in late December. The same officer also shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier, 19, who his father said had been threatening him with a baseball bat.

Both LeGrier and Jones were black, and their killings came at a time of nearly daily protests about police treatment of minorities, which have included calls for Emanuel's resignation.

Larry Merritt, spokesman for the Independent Police Review Authority, which is investigating the deaths, said he did not believe there was any video of the incident.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Bill Rigby)