Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 7, 2015.
Good morning and thank you all for being here. I am joined today by Vanita Gupta, head of the department’s Civil Rights Division, and Zachary Fardon, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
The Department of Justice is committed to upholding the highest standards of law enforcement throughout the United States. Every American expects and deserves the protection of law enforcement that is effective, responsive, respectful and most importantly, constitutional – and each day, thanks to the tireless dedication of men and women who wear the badge, citizens from coast to coast receive just that. But when community members feel they are not receiving that kind of policing – when they feel ignored, let down or mistreated by public safety officials – there are profound consequences for the well-being of their communities, for the rule of law and for the countless law enforcement officers who strive to fulfill their duties with professionalism and integrity.
Today, I am announcing that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether the Chicago Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law. Specifically, we will examine a number of issues related to the CPD’s use of force, including its use of deadly force; racial, ethnic and other disparities in its use of force; and its accountability mechanisms, such as its disciplinary actions and its handling of allegations of misconduct. This investigation has been requested by a number of state and local officials and community leaders and has been opened only after a preliminary review and careful consideration of how the Justice Department can best use our tools and resources to meet Chicago’s needs.
In the coming months, the investigation will be conducted by experienced career attorneys from the Civil Rights Division with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois. They will conduct a thorough, impartial and independent review of the allegations. The team will meet with a broad cross-section of community members, city officials and law enforcement command staff and officers to explain our process and to hear from anyone who wishes to share information relevant to the investigation. We will examine, with our experts, policies, practices and data. And at the end of our investigation, we will issue a report of our findings. If we discover unconstitutional patterns or practices, the Department of Justice will announce them publicly, seek a court-enforceable agreement with the Chicago Police Department and work with the city to implement appropriate reforms.
Our goal in this investigation – as in all of our pattern-or-practice investigations – is not to focus on individuals, but to improve systems; to ensure that officers are being provided with the tools they need – including training, policy guidance and equipment – to be more effective, to partner with civilians and to strengthen public safety. We understand that the same systems that fail community members also fail conscientious officers by creating mistrust between law enforcement and the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect. This mistrust from members of the community makes it more difficult to gain help with investigations, to encourage victims and witnesses of crimes to speak up, and to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of public safety officials. And when suspicion and hostility is allowed to fester, it can erupt into unrest.
Building trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve is one of my highest priorities as Attorney General. The Department of Justice intends to do everything we can to foster those bonds and create safer and fairer communities across the country. And regardless of the findings in this investigation, we will seek to work with local officials, residents and law enforcement officers alike to ensure that the people of Chicago have the world-class police department they deserve.