Chicago Releases Hundreds of Videos of Alleged Police Brutality

On June 3, Chicago’s Independent Police Review Authority, a civilian-staffed department tasked with investigating police misconduct, released more than 300 videos from 101 different cases of alleged police brutality which are still undergoing investigation. Prior to now, Chicago’s policy had been to not release such videos until after investigations were completed. The Chicago Tribune has provided analyses of several of the released videos along with valuable background information. The videos depict instances of fatal shootings, Taser attacks, and beatings allegedly perpetrated by Chicago police officers.

Chicago police have a history of excessive force, particularly against Black Chicagoans, but few officers are ever held responsible through the criminal justice system. Chicago law enforcement officers shot and killed more people between 2010 and 2014 than those in any other major city in the United States. Chicago has spent more than $650 million on settlements for police misconduct since 2004. That bill largely falls on taxpayers—settlements typically come out of the city’s general budget. Between March 2011 and September 2015, citizens filed 56,384 complaints against CPD officials, of which 9,594 were complaints regarding the use of force.

The action taken by Chicago to release these videos is an important step towards increasing transparency within the department. The publication of these videos is in line with guidelines presented in the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing encouraging transparency through civilian oversight and the release of information, including video footage, to the public.

However, Chicago’s police regulations, like those of many cities across the country, still fall short of international human rights standards. International bodies have repeatedly emphasized that police officers’ use of force must be objective, moderate, and proportional to a legitimate goal. Lethal force should only be used as a last resort. Law enforcement officials must receive training to ensure that they respect and protect everyone’s human rights without discrimination, including racial discrimination, and also to ensure that they avoid cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. The government is responsible for providing effective remedies for those who have their human rights violated.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights has submitted reports to international human rights bodies investigating police killings in the United States, including United Nations experts and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and is working to seek justice for individual victims of police brutality like Rekia Boyd, a 22-year old Black woman who was killed by a Chicago detective in 2012. Last October, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights testified alongside Rekia’s brother, Martinez Sutton, at a landmark hearing before the Inter-American Commission.