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Mitchell: Judge should release video of police shooting

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A Cook County judge is expected to decide on Thursday whether to release a dashcam video that reportedly shows a Chicago Police officer shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014, killing the 17-year-old.

A freelance journalist, who is being represented by the powerful civil rights firm Loevy & Loevy and the University of Chicago’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, brought the Freedom of Information Act suit.

In what could be a foreshadowing, the Illinois attorney general’s office released a letter Wednesday asking the Chicago Police Department to release the video, pursuant to a FOIA request by The Wall Street Journal.

The attorney general’s office determined the police department failed to provide any evidence that making the video public would interfere with the ongoing investigation.

Still, it is unlikely the public will actually see the video anytime soon because of the lengthy appeals process.


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Meanwhile, the mayor continues to stifle public outrage over McDonald’s death by clinging to the “under investigation” excuse.

“Once that investigation is concluded, the city will release the video. Until then, and as we have said from the outset, we do not want to do anything that might interfere with the ongoing investigation​,” said Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city’s law department.

The Independent Police Review Authority also cited the “under investigation” mantra even though the agency has had this case for more than a year.

Frankly, how long will this “independent” agency be allowed to hide behind feeble excuses while its counterparts elsewhere show that investigative officers can move quickly to shed light on controversial police shootings.

Twenty-four hours before the scheduled court hearing, no law enforcement agency had filed an affidavit arguing that the release of the tape would impede its investigation.

So the fact that the mayor is still defending the city’s decision to keep the tape secret shows why the Emanuel administration’s claim about transparency is a joke.

There is no question something was very wrong with this police-involved shooting.

That was confirmed by the speed in which the City Council approved a $5 million settlement for McDonald’s family even though attorneys had not filed a civil suit.

Jeffrey Neslund, one of the attorneys for McDonald’s family who has seen the video, described it as “devastating.”

“This video will have a powerful impact on anyone seeing it. But the bigger story is the process. That needs to change,” Neslund said. “If the mayor and people in his administration know how devastating this is, and they can’t fire this officer and recommend that he be disciplined and charged, it is ridiculous.”

Police have said McDonald was armed with a knife and had PCP in his system. But Neslund denied the teen was “lunging” at the police officer.

Craig Futterman, a professor of law and founder of the Civil Rights Police Accountability Project of the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, is adamant the video should be released.

“This video was not taken in somebody’s house or in a private area. The video was taken in a public area and contains something that looks like an execution of a black child by a police officer,” Futterman said.

“There is not a greater public interest than the need for honesty when we are talking about a situation when an officer of the state has taken a human life, and particularly the life of a black child,” he pointed out.

The city can’t hide the truth forever.

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