US Justice Department investigate Chicago police

December 7, 2015, 3:29pm

BBC News, photo: Getty Images

The US Department of Justice is planning to launch a wide-ranging investigation into the Chicago Police Department, according to several US media reports.

The announcement - expected this week - follows weeks of protests over the police killing of a black teenager.Laquan McDonald, 17, was shot 16 times in 2014 by an officer who was charged with murder over a year later.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel welcomed the inquiry after initially opposing it.

The investigation has not been officially announced, but several US media outlets - including the Associated Press and the New York Times - are reporting that the announcement could come as early as this week.

The inquiry would take a similar form to those recently conducted in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri - as well as more than 20 other departments in recent years, and will look for systematic violations of US civil rights laws.

Mr Emanuel and other city officials are under intense scrutiny following the release of dashboard camera footage in late November that shows the moment McDonald was shot by a white police officer.

The officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged with first-degree murder just a few hours before the video was released - more than a year after the shooting.

The video shows the teenager walking around and possibly away from police before gunshots rang out. The shooting continues even after the teenager is on the ground motionless. Police say that he refused to drop a knife.

The video does not include audio, an absence as yet unexplained by authorities.

Last week, officials released hundreds of pages of police reports related to the incident. In the documents, Van Dyke and his partner said McDonald approached them in an aggressive manner while armed with a knife. At least two other officers supported this sequence of events.

Protests have taken place regularly throughout the region since the video's release, with many demonstrators alleging a cover-up and calling for the mayor to resign.

In response to the outcry, Mayor Emanuel fired the city's police chief and later announced the resignation of the Independent Police Review Authority's chief.

Mr Emanuel originally said a federal investigation would be "misguided", but later back-tracked and welcomed an investigation.

The Chicago City Council settled with the McDonald family for $5m (£3.3m), and officials in the city fought in court for months for the video to be kept under wraps.