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Chicago Releases Document Dump Of Police Documents, Videos

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

The city of Chicago has released hundreds of videos from investigations into police shootings and other incidents that may involve excessive force. Some of the videos are graphic. In others, it isn't exactly clear what's happening. The releases are part of an effort to restore public trust in the embattled police department. NPR's David Schaper reports.

DAVID SCHAPER, BYLINE: Chicago's Independent Police Review Authority, the agency that investigates police shootings and allegations of misconduct, released more than 300 videos, audio recordings and other documents from about 100 open investigations looking into whether police exceeded their authority in using force.

In one video, police are responding to a late-night call of an SUV ramming into parked cars. A cell phone video shot by two young men in a nearby apartment shows arriving officers out of their vehicle as the SUV is stopped. But then the driver accelerates and tries to get away.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: We got a cop chase. Hey, seriously watch the [expletive] out. They're shooting at them.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Holy [expletive].

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: They're shooting at them. They're shooting at them. We heard gunshots.

SCHAPER: The man in the SUV was shot and wounded, but lived. In another incident also caught on cell phone video, police are responding to a disturbance from a street party. Tensions rise as a crowd surrounds officers trying to make an arrest when...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Crosstalk).

SCHAPER: At that point, an officer slams a woman face-first onto the hood of a squad car. The city recently paid that woman $50,000 while its investigation continues. The Independent Police Review Authority or IPRA has cleared all but two officers in more than 400 police shootings over the last decade.

But after the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald video last year in which a white police officer shoots the black teenager 16 times, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has been under enormous pressure to overhaul the city's system of police accountability. IPRA's new chief administrator Sharon Fairley says, today's release represents significant change.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHARON FAIRLEY: 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. Today represents an important first step toward that end.

SCHAPER: But Dean Angelo, president of Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police calls the release of the videos irresponsible.

DEAN ANGELO: I don't think that they should be doing anything - video-wise, report-wise, audio-wise - until the investigations are completed.

SCHAPER: Angelo argues that releasing videos out of context doesn't provide the entire picture and risks further damaging already strained police-community relations.

But city officials argue the opposite as today's historic action is the first under a new policy mandating the release of videos and other documentation of police shootings within 60 days in most cases. Many critics of how Chicago has historically policed its police are applauding the move.

CRAIG FUTTERMAN: This has the potential to be real transparency and an opportunity for Chicago to show the rest of the nation how it can be done.

SCHAPER: Craig Futterman is a law professor at the University of Chicago and directs a police accountability project there.

FUTTERMAN: Starting with a hundred videos of ongoing investigations is not a bad place to start. The question then is what happens after this?

SCHAPER: Futterman says this new policy could be an answer to decades of secrecy, cover-ups and institutional denial within the Chicago Police Department. David Schaper, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.