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The travesty of the killing of Laquan McDonald can no longer be denied

Newly released documents reaffirm what’s been firmly established: The Chicago Police behaved abysmally, and things had better change.

Police dashcam footage that captured the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald on Oct. 20, 2014.
Police dashcam footage that captured the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Chicago Police Department/Distributed by the Associated Press

It’s time to move on, officers.

The publicly available evidence has been overwhelming for years now that the shooting of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer in 2014 was indefensible, and that other officers and supervisors tried to cover it up.

The proof has poured out in trials, independent government reviews and the work of investigative reporters.

On Wednesday, thousands of pages of records related to the investigation of the McDonald shooting by the city’s Office of Inspector General were released, and they made for colorful reading. But there was little real news. The documents largely reaffirmed what has been firmly established: The Chicago Police Department behaved abysmally — and things have got to change.

There are those who will never accept that truth. The Fraternal Order of Police would have you believe, against overwhelming evidence, that Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot McDonald 16 times, was just doing his job, and so were his colleagues who gave false witness statements and falsified reports.

The FOP would relitigate this scandal forever, always in a defensive crouch.

But our own takeaway from the newly released records is that an ongoing reform of the Chicago Police Department, under the oversight of a federal court, cannot move ahead fast enough.

We’re also even more convinced that a key component of reform must be the construction of a first-class police and firefighter training academy on the West Side. Poor police training — in everything from the proper use of deadly force to the internalizing of professional ethics — was at the heart of the scandal.

The records released Wednesday largely concern the behavior of 16 officers that city Inspector General Joe Ferguson recommended be disciplined.

Ferguson describes how original police reports from the scene of the shooting were destroyed after a lieutenant supposedly spilled coffee on them, and how the lieutenant took it upon himself to “re-create” the reports.

Ferguson found it fascinating — as should we all — that among the lost or destroyed reports were interviews with witnesses who were appalled by the shooting. One witness told Ferguson that she had described the shooting that night — to an officer whose notes have vanished — as an “execution.”

Ferguson describes how Van Dyke, who was convicted of second-degree murder last year, repeatedly submitted false reports and made false statements to “exaggerate the threat McDonald posed.”

None of this should surprise anybody. It’s almost all old news, an embroidery with new detail.

Let’s end the denial and push ahead.

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