After refusing to fire top cops who lied about the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, the Chicago Police Department just suspended four officers for camera negligence at the scene. The suspensions come less than a week after the Department of Justice (DOJ) released a damning report about egregious use of police force in the city, coupled with a failure to hold officers accountable for violent behavior.
More than two years after McDonald’s death, Superintendent Eddie Johnson suspended the four unnamed officers, who didn’t verify that their dashboard cameras were fully functional the night of the shooting. Whether or not they tampered with their equipment intentionally, none of the the officers’ cameras contained audio from the incident. As a result, they’ll be off-duty for seven days.
The suspensions were made after Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson recommended them this week, although it is unclear why this course of action was suggested by his office in the first place. Some of his other recommendations for disciplinary action have been taken less seriously. Last month, the Chicago Tribune discovered that the CPD had refused to fire both a deputy chief who “approved false police reports” and the chief of detectives, who had publicly supported false statements about McDonald, according to the Inspector General’s findings. Ferguson recommended that both cops be fired and that the CPD disclose their wrongdoing to the public. But the high-ranking officers were allowed to retire quietly.
Johnson is currently trying to fire Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald 16 times and was charged with first-degree murder in 2015, in addition to four others who were caught lying about the shooting. But while the paperwork to terminate them was filed last September, the five officers are still on the force and contesting their punishment.
The recent suspensions, which amount to a slap on the wrist, come days after the DOJ revealed a gross lack of oversight and accountability within the CPD.
After their 13-month probe of the department, federal investigators concluded that officers frequently shoot their guns and lie about it. They’re also instructed about how to justify their excessive use of force. Even though it is standard protocol to report all use of force incidents, officers don’t have to document, in detail, why they resorted to shooting, Tasing, or beating someone. Only two of 411 shootings reviewed by the DOJ were considered unjustified by the City of Chicago. And supervisors rarely investigate use of force incidents that don’t involve firearms, let alone penalize their officers.
The four suspensions also come one year after DNAinfo revealed Chicago officers’ systemic destruction of camera equipment.