The U.S. Justice Department will open a civil rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the release of video showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, according to law enforcement officials familiar with the coming investigation.
A law enforcement official said the investigation will likely be announced “in the next week.”
The investigation into the department’s policies and practices will likely focus on the use of deadly force by Chicago officers as well as training and community engagement.
The Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has at least 15 lawyers who do nothing but conduct such investigations around the country. They primarily use a 1994 law passed in the wake of the Rodney King beating by police in Los Angeles.
Such investigations — separate from criminal probes of individual police officers’ misconduct — are currently underway in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore. They sometimes take months or years to complete.
The Obama administration has typically required systemic and expensive reforms overseen by an independent monitor over a period of years when it finds violations.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama, initially opposed calls for such a probe. But he later reversed himself and said the Justice Department would be welcome in Chicago.
Earlier Sunday, a Justice Department official said an official announcement of a decision would come “very soon.”
“Civil Rights Division lawyers are reviewing the many requests for an investigation, which is the department’s standard process, and the Attorney General is briefed regularly on the review and expects to make a decision very soon,” the official said.