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Chicago Police Department recommends firing seven officers for lying about Laquan McDonald shooting

On Oct. 20, 2014, Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald sixteen times. Police video of the shooting was made public on Nov. 24. Here's what we know about the shooting and the video that was made public a year later. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

Chicago police officials have recommended firing seven officers for lying about the shooting death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager whose 2014 killing helped spark intense protests and a federal investigation of the department.

The decision comes after the city’s inspector general delivered a report this week on the shooting that called for the officers to be fired.

After receiving this report, police officials and outside attorneys reviewed it and agreed to recommend firing seven officers, Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, said Thursday morning. The issue now goes to the Chicago Police Board, which will make a decision in the case.

“The officers have been relieved of their police powers prior to the determination of the Police Board,” Guglielmi wrote in an email.

The officers were accused of Rule 14 violations, meaning delivering a false report.

After a blistering report, what’s next for the embattled Chicago police?

The inspector general’s report also cited two other officers who have since retired, police officials said, as well as another officer whom the department did not recommend firing. Guglielmi said that the police department “respectfully disagrees” with the inspector general’s recommendation that the 10th officer be fired. A copy of the inspector general’s report has not been made public.

Last November, more than a year after McDonald’s shooting in October 2014, officials released video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 rounds at the teenager. The same day they released the footage, which came out amid intense national focus on how police officers use lethal force, Van Dyke was charged with murder.

Questions have remained since McDonald’s death nearly two years ago about what discipline could follow, after suggestions that the teenager lunged at police was shown to be untrue by the video footage.

Why did authorities say Laquan McDonald lunged at Chicago police officers?

The footage touched off heated demonstrations in the city and prompted remarkable, ongoing fallout for the country’s second-biggest local law enforcement agency. Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), who was highly criticized over how officials handled the shooting, forced out the city’s police superintendent, Garry McCarthy.

The Justice Department said not long after that it was launching an investigation into the department, a sweeping “pattern or practice” probe meant to determine whether officers violated the Constitution or federal law. These investigations can often result in court-enforced orders outlining changes to how departments operate. A similar probe in Baltimore, also launched after protests dominated that city’s streets, just concluded with promises of sweeping overhaul.

The federal investigation in Chicago is ongoing, and as part of it investigators will look into how the department handles discipline, according to an official familiar with the probe, who asked not to be identified discussing an active inquiry.

After the McDonald shooting video was released, Emanuel also formed a task force to review the department. This group released a report this year pillorying the police force and saying that the department’s own data give “validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color.”

Eddie Johnson, a veteran of the department, was unanimously confirmed as superintendent in April, taking over an embattled department at a tumultuous time.  Chicago is facing a surge in shootings and bloodshed this year, and many residents are extremely worried about the city’s direction. In a survey released this summer, residents were as likely to think that young people there will be victims of violent crime as to graduate from college.

The city announced a series of reforms after the task force’s report came out that were meant to strengthen investigations into misconduct and speed up internal inquiries. In an effort to show new transparency after being criticized for holding the McDonald video back for so long, authorities released in June a huge volume of videos and reports from open investigations into police shootings and other instances of use of force.

Just recent, another police shooting in Chicago drew national attention. Three officers were stripped of their policing powers by Johnson after an investigation found they had violated departmental policy in the shooting death of Paul O’Neal, an 18-year-old suspected of stealing a car.

Video of Paul O’Neal shooting shows officers firing at a fleeing car

Also on Thursday, Johnson announced two new senior police appointments effective next month. Kevin B. Navarro will take over as first deputy superintendent, the department’s second-highest position, while Melissa A. Staples will become the chief of detectives.

“We all share the same goal to make this department better for every Chicagoan and every brave officer that works to keep our streets safe,” Johnson said. “They have my fullest confidence in their ability to serve with honor and build lasting partnerships with the community.”

John Escalante, who had served as first deputy superintendent under Johnson and interim police superintendent before that, was hired as the chief of police for Northeastern Illinois University, the school announced this week. Eugene Roy, the chief of detectives, has reached a mandatory retirement age, the department said.

Fairley says she hopes the new policy will "balance the public’s need for timely information about these incidents and the integrity of ongoing investigations." (Video: Reuters)

Further reading:

Voters decisively oust prosecutor in the McDonald case

Ousted prosecutor withdraws from case, asks for special prosecutor

This story, first published at 12:21 p.m., has been updated.