Controversy still rages in Chicago over the response of police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to the 2014 shooting death of teenaged Laquan McDonald at the hands of a Chicago police officer. Protests that followed the release of a police dashcam video that showed Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting McDonald 16 times. The white Van Dyke has been charged with manslaughter of the black teen, and the police superintendent has been ousted. In addition, a federal civil rights investigation has ensued.
 
A Chicago Police Department report, released on January 1, indicates that in 2015 Chicago police shot the lowest number of people than they have in years. The number of people shot by Chicago cops has been gradually falling. In 2015, out of 22 people shot by police, eight were killed, representing a drop of 40 percent in the total for 2014. That year, 37 persons were shot by police in Chicago: 16 of them died as a result. In 2011, police shot 56 citizens, killing 24 according to police records. Chicago police shot 45 people and killed 12 in 2012. In 2013, they shot 35 and killed 14. 
 
By way of contrast, as of December 21, Los Angeles police officers shot 37 people in 2015; of these, 22 were fatally wounded. In New York City, as of December 29, cops shot 32 people, and killed nine. 
 
Chicago police, according to the report, a facing a drop in overall violent crime but a rise in homicides. 2015 showed the fourth straight year of the reduction in violent crime and the lowest violent crime rate since the days of Mayor Richard Daly in the 1960s. However, the report showed a significant rise in the murder rate: 468 in 2015 as opposed to 416 in 2014.
 
The report acknowledged that the public’s trust in the police “has been shaken.” Interim police superintendent John Escalante stated in the report “In addition to building upon our public safety accomplishments, our focus for 2016 will be to restore the trust of the people of Chicago by being more transparent and continuing to work . . . to take a critical look at our department to develop best-in-class policies and practices.”
 
“Major reforms” and “policy revisions” announced by the police include training cops to “resolve confrontations using the least force necessary,” while equipping all beat cops with Tasers by June 1. In addition, in an apparent effort at transparency, the department has released thousands of pages of documents.  
 
The head of Chicago’s newly appointed Independent Police Review Authority will announce today staffing changes that will include a new chief of staff and chief investigator for the authority. Acting chief administrator Sharon Fairley is expected to establish further community outreach, too.
 
Fairley was appointed by Mayor Emanuel in December. She has relinquished the investigation into the shooting of 17-year-old McDonald to the Chicago Office of the Inspector General and reopened an investigation into the case of Philip Coleman (38), who was allegedly tasered by Chicago police and dragged through a police station in 2012. While the Chicago Tribune and civil rights activists have found fault with the ISPA since it was formed in 2007, of the 409 police shootings it investigated only two shootings were deemed unjustified. Both of these involved off-duty officers, determined the ISPA after a lengthy investigation.

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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