A drag on police morale stemming from Chicago’s Laquan McDonald police shooting scandal is partly to blame for the surging gun violence in the city this year, U.S. Attorney Zachary Fardon said yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reports. Fardon said fallout over the release of dashboard camera video of a white police officer fatally shooting 17-year-old McDonald exacerbated what was already an unacceptable level of bloodshed. Within weeks of the video’s release last November, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired, the U.S. Justice Department said it would conduct a sweeping investigation of the department’s use of force policies, and a new order required officers to fill out lengthy forms when making street stops of suspected gang members. All three events moved the needle on police morale, Fardon said.
“I believe there was a hit on [police department] morale and a drag on officers’ willingness to conduct stops,” Fardon said. “Some gang members apparently felt that they could get away with more, so more bullets started flying.” Fardon’s comments in a speech about the role played by his office in investigating accusations of police wrongdoing as well as trying to quell the city’s unrelenting gun violence , an issue that has brought unflattering national attention to Chicago and has become a part of the presidential race. Fardon said he has been meeting with leaders of nonprofit groups in hard-hit communities who have complained they’re not working together closely enough because of competition over funding. The civil rights investigation of the police department that began in December has grown into the largest such probe ever undertaken by the feds and is proceeding at a “record pace,” Fardon said.