Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot is calling for the release of thousands of pages of records from the city’s investigation of an alleged cover-up for Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke after he killed teenager Laquan McDonald.
“There’s no good-faith justification for keeping those reports secret at this point,” Lightfoot said.
The investigation, conducted by Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office in 2016, focused on the Police Department’s handling of the shooting.
Based on the investigation, the most exhaustive probe of the shooting’s aftermath, Ferguson recommended that the city fire Chief of Detectives Eugene Roy, Deputy Chief David McNaughton and nine lower-ranking officers. Ferguson also recommended that four officers be suspended.
The records and findings from Ferguson’s investigation were excluded from Van Dyke’s murder trial and a separate trial of three officers on charges they covered up for him. Now Van Dyke has been sent to prison and the other three have been acquitted.
Ferguson told WBEZ last month his probe was “a matter of high public interest and importance” and warned that the public still does not know “the full story” about the shooting’s aftermath.
Lightfoot, a former Police Board president and ex-federal prosecutor, agrees.
“It’s absolutely critical that the city inspector general’s reports be fully released — in their entirety, including all the attachments and the evidence — to the public,” Lightfoot said.
Lightfoot and Ferguson both served on the city’s Police Accountability Task Force, announced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in December 2015 during a public outcry after his administration’s court-ordered release of the police dashcam video of the shooting.
Ferguson said a Chicago municipal code that bars his office from releasing investigation records does not apply to the Police Department, which possesses the material.
But the Emanuel administration insists it cannot release the records — in part because of a gag order imposed three years ago by Vincent Gaughan, the Cook County judge who oversaw Van Dyke’s trial. The gag order bars law enforcement agencies from releasing “any purported extrajudicial statement of either the defendant or witnesses relating to this case.”
Last month, Gaughan said the order remains in effect because of plans by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul to ask the state Supreme Court to order a redo of Van Dyke’s sentencing. Gaughan gave the former officer an 81-month prison sentence with possible release in half that time, a penalty criticized as too lenient by police accountability advocates.
Raoul and special prosecutor Joseph McMahon filed that request on Feb. 11. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on it.