The Chicago Police Department rushes to clear officers who shoot civilians, an eight-month Chicago Tribune investigation found. The inquiry, which reviewed available records in more than 200 police shooting cases over the last decade, found that “cursory police investigations create a separate standard of justice and fuel the fear among some citizens that officers can shoot people with impunity,” the newspaper said. In at least a dozen cases, police shot civilians in the back or from behind. In many such shootings, it took a civil suit for the troubling details to emerge publicly.
Officers often face potentially life-or-death situations that require an instantaneous decision: to shoot or not to shoot. In many instances the use of deadly force is justified, and that decision saves lives. Other times, police have shot innocent, unarmed people. Mayor Richard Daley’s attempts at reform have focused on the Office of Professional Standards, the civilian oversight agency that until recently was part of the police department. The Tribune found that while the agency’s lack of resources and expertise makes it ineffective, the problem goes deeper than one office. Law enforcement officials at all levels, from detectives who investigate cases to the superintendent, as well as prosecutors, have failed to properly police the police. Chicago police shoot a civilian on average once every 10 days. More than 100 people have been killed in the last decade; 250 others have been injured. Fewer than 1 percent of shootings are ruled unjustified.