Chicago police watchdog releases hundreds of tapes of past incidents

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A graphic 2012 video of Chicago police shooting dead an unarmed black man who charged toward them was among hundreds of audio and video recordings released on Friday by Chicago’s police oversight body.

The Independent Police Review Authority, or IPRA, said information about 101 incidents involving the use of force by police from January 2011 to March 2016 showed its commitment to transparency in the wake of public uproar over Chicago police shootings, mostly of black men.

The Authority said that in the future it would make public video and audio recordings of incidents involving the use of force by police and misconduct, along with police reports, within 60 days of an event.

“These past few months, as this city has struggled with so many questions about policing and about police accountability, it has been clear that we all agree that there’s a lack of trust and that increased transparency is essential to rebuilding that trust,” IPRA head Sharon Fairley told a news conference.

The Authority’s investigations used to be largely secret. The change in operating style came after Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to abolish and replace the agency, blasting its investigations of police misconduct as ineffective.

All of the incidents in the videos are under investigation by IPRA as to whether the police action was justified. Some of them have already resulted in civil settlements between the city and the person claiming mistreatment by the police. Some of the 101 cases have multiple audio, video and document files that have been made public.

In the graphic video of the 2012 incident, a number of police are seen confronting, then tasering and shooting 28-year-old Ismael Jamison, who was agitated and was approached by police after they received reports he had assaulted a bus driver.

The union for Chicago police officers decried the release of the videos, saying on its website that the images could put officers in danger and violate terms of their collective bargaining agreement with the city.

IPRA was formed in 2007 to investigate problems at Chicago’s police force, which has a history of complaints of abuse. But the agency has been plagued by budget and staffing shortages.

Emanuel fired his police chief when protests erupted in November after the city released a video of a white police officer fatally shooting a black teenager in October 2014.

It was one of a number of U.S. police killings that have sparked a national movement over policing and race. The officer, Jason Van Dyke, has been charged with murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, and his trial is pending.

Federal investigators are looking at the Chicago Police Department’s history of use of force.

Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Matthew Lewis