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Chicago police watchdog releases hundreds of tapes of past incidents

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The watchdog group that monitors Chicago’s police released on Friday audio and video recordings of 101 police shootings and other use-of-force incidents that are under investigation, and said in the future it would make such footage public within 60 days of an event.

The Independent Police Review Authority, or IPRA, said release of the footage was part of new transparency policies it was adopting in the wake of uproar over shootings by Chicago police officers, mostly of young black men.

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IPRA, which is due to be overhauled in coming months after a mayoral task force blasted its investigations of police misconduct as ineffective, said in the future it would make public large quantities of information about police use of force on a website.

“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 chief Sharon Fairley told a news conference.

The information to be made public in the future will include videos from police body cameras, patrol car dashboard cameras, cameras in lockup cells and third-party security cameras, as well as audio files from emergency calls and police department radio, and police reports.

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.

Mayor Rahm 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.

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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.

From 2007-2014 Chicago consistently had more police shootings than other major U.S. cities. Over that time Chicago police shot and killed an average of 17 people a year. Total shootings, including injuries and fatalities, averaged 50 a year, and three-quarters of the people shot were African-American.

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Police shooting incidents have dropped significantly since early 2015, to an average of fewer than seven a quarter, from a previous average of 12.

(Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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