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Aldermen Hold Public Hearing On McDonald Case

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Aldermen were putting a spotlight on the Chicago Police Department on Tuesday, as they prepared to hold a public hearing to discuss the department's policies and practices, which have been called into question following the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

The City Council Public Safety Committee and Human Relations Committee were holding a joint hearing Tuesday to discuss police accountability and procedures.

Aldermen invited interim Police Supt. John Escalante, Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo, and former Independent Police Review Authority chief administrator Scott Ando to testify about their roles in the McDonald case. Aldermen also asked Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez to attend, but she was a no show.

Coincidentally, also on the agenda at Tuesday's hearing is a symbolic resolution calling on a special prosecutor to take over the murder case against Officer Jason Van Dyke, who has been charged in McDonald's death. Many critics, including some aldermen, have blasted Alvarez for not filing charges against Van Dyke until 13 months after McDonald was killed, and only when release of police dashboard camera video of the shooting was imminent.

Among other issues, aldermen want to know the department's policies regarding use of deadly force, and whether the Independent Police Review Authority should be dissolved and replaced with a new agency to investigate allegations of police abuse and misconduct.

The chairmen of the committees said it's more important to reform the broken system than just ask for resignations.

Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, the City Council Latino Caucus, which called for the hearing, said police misconduct is not an issue just in black communities, but in all communities.

"The Laquan case was a flashpoint of decades in the making of some of these incidents that go unaccounted for. We have been at the front and center of the emerging allegations, obviously, regarding police misconduct," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who chairs the Latino Caucus.

Cardenas said concerns about police brutality don't affect just African Americans, but Latinos as well. The Latino Caucus cited the 2005 police shooting of Emmanuel Lopez, who was also shot 16 times by police.

"Justice has to be applied to all; whether it's black, Hispanic, Chinese, Muslim, and so on. This city cannot move forward unless we move forward together," Cardenas said.

Police have said officers shot and killed Lopez, 23, after a brief chase, when he tried to run over an officer with his car. Lopez's family has accused police of fabricating evidence to make it look like he tried to run over an officer to justify an unprovoked shooting.

Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is charged with murder in the death of Laquan McDonald, also has ties to the Lopez case. While Van Dyke was not among the officers who fired shots at Lopez, he was one of the first officers on the scene. According to court documents, Van Dyke has admitted falsifying his reports on the shooting, not interviewing witnesses, and copying the work of other officers, so his official report would match theirs.

Lopez family attorney Terry Ekl said this goes to prove Chicago police routinely cover up bad shootings by officers.

"Part of the game plan of the Chicago Police Department, when they investigate a police officer shooting, is they don't consider physical evidence, and they try to give one cohesive consistent story as to how the shooting took place. Then they present it to this farce called a roundtable, which is the night of the shooting, and they clear the officer before any physical evidence came back," he said.

The Lopez family's wrongful death lawsuit against the city and several police officers has been scheduled for a trial in February.


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