Officials in Chicago released a huge array of videos and police reports Friday from about 100 open investigations into police shootings and use of force, a sharp reversal in a city still reeling from the impact of long-withheld footage showing an officer fatally shooting a teenager.
As the city’s police department faces intense scrutiny and a looming Justice Department investigation, authorities promising reform and increased transparency said they were releasing the trove to try and restore trust between officers and the community. The agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct in the city posted the material all at once.
The video footage, documents and other evidence released Friday date back as far as five years. Included in the documents are the names of at least a dozen officers who have fatally shot someone and have not previously been identified by the police department.
In many cases, police reports are accompanied by blurry recordings – captured by dashboard cameras or cellphones – showing little other than stationary police cars and officers standing amid flashing blue and red lights. Some show more-graphic encounters. In one video from 2012, a man who police said had assaulted a rider on a bus and violently shaken the bus driver is seen being shot and subsequently shocked with a stun gun.
Another video shows a group of officers that same year standing on a sidewalk before suddenly scrambling out of the way as a minivan careens back toward them. Police opened fire on the vehicle, killing one of the people in the car.
Thirty of the 101 cases involve deaths, a spokeswoman for the Independent Policy Review Authority, Mia Sissac, told the Associated Press.
The release Friday is the latest reverberation to follow the outcry over video of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke firing more than a dozen shots into Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, in 2014. That video, released last November, prompted protests over both what was on the recording and the fact that it took more than a year – and a lawsuit – for the city to release it.
City officials and transparency advocates praised the decision to make all of the material public Friday, though civilians named in the documents as well as their relatives and attorneys questioned the tactic.
“While I am pleased that Chicago is taking this important next step in our effort to be more transparent on these issues, we know there is a lot more work to do,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) said in a statement Friday.
Sharon R. Fairley, chief administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority, called the online publication of the documents “a historic release.”
“It is my hope that this new policy will successfully balance the public’s need for timely information about these incidents and the integrity of ongoing investigations,” Fairley said during a news conference.
Most of the evidence released Friday involved cases in which someone fired a gun. While 101 cases were listed in the release, some had no records, because the person involved was a minor. Many involved video footage – sometimes dozens and dozens of clips – but most did not capture the actual incident at the heart of the case, instead showing parked police cars or officers waiting at a scene for first responders.
In one video, a man identified in the arrest report as Zainul Hussain, who police said they shot after he refused orders in July 2015 to stop hitting someone with a baseball bat, is seen kneeling on the pavement, apparently wounded, before eventually lying down. Minutes pass before he receives medical attention.
Another video was released without any accompanying reports or explanation: A man is seen inside a police facility speaking with an officer. The two men exchange words, and then the officer quickly lunges for the man’s throat before eventually forcing him to the ground. This clip has no audio and no report, so there is no indication what was said.
“The release and availability of this evidence illustrates the challenges our officers face every day when they put their lives on the line to protect the city of Chicago,” Eddie Johnson, the police superintendent, said in a statement Friday. “I have often said that CPD is only as effective as the faith and trust the community has in it, and I believe that this will go a long way in promoting transparency.”
Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor who helped get the McDonald video released, said he was impressed. “I think this is a real step toward transparency,” he said.
Dean Angelo, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, was critical of the decision to release the videos and documents while the investigations are ongoing. “To me, you would release the information to justify the results, whether its discipline or exoneration,” he said Friday. “But you complete the investigation before you put it out there.”
Angelo also said the footage released Friday is incomplete, offering only snippets of encounters. “If you want to show a movie, don’t come in halfway,” Angelo said. “Watch the whole movie.”
Luster Woodall – whose son, 25-year-old Terrance Gilbert, was fatally shot on Christmas Day 2014 by a police officer who said Gilbert tried to stab him – said he was not told documents relating to his son would be released.
“They are hoping to lesson the impact of these videos by dumping them all at one time,” said Jeffrey Granich, who represents Gilbert’s family in a lawsuit against the city. “If they release them at one time, we look at each case. If they dump 200 videos, no one is going to pay attention to each and every case, and that is their purpose.”
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Surveillance video released by Chicago officials in a huge release of investigations on June 3 shows Ismael Jamison advancing on an officer before being shot in 2012:
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Mark Berman, Mark Guarino