DOJ report: Chicago police routinely used excessive force

CHICAGO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Chicago's police routinely used excessive force, tolerated racially discriminatory conduct and often maintained a "code of silence" among officers to thwart investigations into misconduct, federal officials said in a blistering report released on Friday.

The U.S. Department of Justice civil rights probe began in December 2015 following the release of video footage showing Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, being fatally shot by white police officer Jason Van Dyke. The video's release sparked several days of protests and led to the ouster of Chicago's police chief and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.

Related: Laquan McDonald Shooting, Jason Van Dyke

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Laquan McDonald (R) walks on a road before he was shot 16 times by police officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago, in this still image taken from a police vehicle dash camera video shot on October 20, 2014, and released by Chicago Police on November 24, 2015. Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman was charged on Tuesday with murdering black teenager McDonald, a prosecution that was speeded up in hopes of staving off a fresh burst of the turmoil over race and police use of deadly force that has shaken the U.S. for more than a year. REUTERS/Chicago Police Department/Handout via Reuters TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY.
CHICAGO, IL - UNDATED: In this handout provided by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke poses for a mugshot photo after he was was arrested for the shooting death of an African-American teen in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Cook County State's Attorney's Office via Getty Images)
A memorial to 17-year-old Laquan McDonald and other victims of violence at the Sullivan House Alternative High School in Chicago is seen on April 17, 2015. McDonald was shot 16 times by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. A judge has ordered the video of the shooting to be made public. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, to possibly face charges for the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Dan Herbert, lawyer for Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, speaks to the press following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez leaves after speaking to the media about Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke following a bond hearing for Van Dyke at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times on October 20, 2014 after responding to a call of a knife wielding man who had threatened the complainant and was attempting to break into vehicles in a trucking yard. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke sits in the courtroom during a hearing in his shooting case of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune/Pool File Photo
A wreath with the words "Rest In Peace Laquan McDonald" stands at the site where the 17-year-old McDonald was shot 16 times and killed by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in an October 2014 incident on the west side of Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015. Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond until he is due back in court on November 30. REUTERS/Frank Polich
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 20: In this still image taken from a police vehicle dash camera relased by the Chicago Police Department on November 24, 2015 , Laquan McDonald falls to the ground after being shot by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke on October 20, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. Officer Van Dyke was charged with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Chicago Police Department via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 07: Demonstrators protest the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer outside the mayor's office in City Hall on December7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shot and killed 17-year-old McDonald on October 20, 2014, hitting him with 16 bullets. Van Dyke was charged with murder more than a year after the shooting following a judge's orders to release to the public a police video of the shooting. Today, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Department will open an investigation into the Chicago Police Department. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 18 : Chicago police officers surround a police vehicle as they watch demonstrators protesting the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald December 18, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with murder last month in the shooting death of 17-year-old McDonald last year, was indicted on six counts of first-degree murder and one count of official misconduct earlier this week. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 31: Demonstrators calling the resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stage a 'die-in' inside of City Hall on December 31, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The shooting deaths by police of a 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier and his 55-year-old neighbor Bettie Jones and a recently released video showing the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke have sparked dozens of protests in the city. Yesterday Emanuel announced several changes that would take place in the police department with the hope of preventing future incidents. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
during protests in Chicago, Illinois November 24, 2015 reacting to the release of a police video of the 2014 shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white policeman, Jason Van Dyke. Van Dyke was charged with murder in the incident. REUTERS/Jim Young
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF DEATH OR INJURY Laquan McDonald walks on a road (top L -R) and is subsequently shot (bottom R) by police officer Jason Van Dyke (not pictured) in Chicago, in this combination of still images taken from a police vehicle dash camera video shot on October 20, 2014, and released by Chicago Police on November 24, 2015. Van Dyke, a white Chicago policeman was charged on Tuesday with murdering black teenager McDonald, a prosecution that was speeded up in hopes of staving off a fresh burst of the turmoil over race and police use of deadly force that has shaken the U.S. for more than a year. REUTERS/Chicago Police Department/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY. TEMPLATE OUT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A protester demonstrates in response to the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago, Illinois, November 25, 2015. Laquan McDonald, 17, was fatally shot by Jason Van Dyke, a Chicago police officer, in October 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Nelles
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The McDonald shooting was just one of many high-profile incidents that thrust Chicago and other cities into a national debate over excessive use of force by police against minorities.

"On the basis of this exhaustive review, the Department of Justice has concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Chicago Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution," U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said at a news conference, flanked by Chicago's mayor and police chief.

The report said use of excessive force by Chicago police included officers shooting at fleeing suspects and use of Tasers on children.

The 161-page report came the same week that Baltimore agreed with the Justice Department to change how officers use force and transport prisoners, almost two years after the death of a black man while in police custody sparked a day of rioting.

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Justice Department officials have pushed to wrap up ongoing investigations before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. Republican Trump touted himself during his campaign as more friendly to law enforcement.

President Barack Obama's administration opened 25 civil rights investigations into law enforcement agencies as part of efforts to re-examine and improve U.S. policing practices, particularly in minority communities.

Also on Friday, the Justice Department praised the Philadelphia Police Department for making "tremendous progress" in implementing changes recommended two years ago. Federal officials in March 2015 said problems in training and internal investigations had created "an undercurrent of significant strife" between the city's residents and police.

Chicago and federal officials have signed an agreement in principle to create a court-enforced consent decree that addresses the problems found during the probe with compliance reviewed by an independent monitor. The consent decree must be negotiated then approved by a federal judge.

Related: Protests in Chicago following Laquan McDonald shooting by police conviction

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Protesters form a line and walk holding signs that spell out 'Laquan' following the release of a dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 2015, in Chicago. (Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
Protesters take to the streets in Chicago following the release of a dash-cam video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being fatally shot 16 times by Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke, on Tuesday, Nov. 24 2015. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators confront police during a protest following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Police stand guard as demonstrators march through downtown during a protest following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Bus passengers watch as demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 24: Demonstrators march through downtown following the release of a video showing Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting and killing Laquan McDonald on November 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Van Dyke was charged today with first degree murder for the October 20, 2014 shooting in which McDonald was hit with 16 bullets. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Chicago's mayor, Emanuel, enacted a series of police reforms over the past year, including rolling out a body-camera program and a new use of force policy, efforts recognized by Lynch.

McDonald, 17, was shot in October 2014 but the city did not release the video of the shooting until more than a year later. Van Dyke has pleaded not guilty to murder and is awaiting trial.

Many of the Chicago police department's problems stemmed from deficient training and accountability, Lynch said.

Investigations into police misconduct were often thwarted by "a code of silence among Chicagopolice officers ... extending to lying and affirmative efforts to conceal evidence," the report added.

"Some of the findings in the report are difficult to read," Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at the news conference. "Quite simply, as a department, we need to do better." (Additional reporting by David Ingram in New York; Editing by Ben Klayman and Matthew Lewis)

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