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December 03, 2007
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Probes of shootings by Chicago police beefed up

"We are committed to a transparent process."

By ANNIE SWEENEY
Chicago Sun Times

CHICAGO — Chicago Police Department officials testifying Friday at a public hearing said they were adjusting how officer-involved shootings are investigated.

The announcement came at a hearing called by Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), chairman of the City Council's Police Committee, in response to several complaints from families of people who have been shot by police.

The department currently reviews a shooting within three to six hours of the incident at a meeting called a roundtable.

The meeting includes police brass, the officer who fired a weapon, witnesses, and members of the Cook County state's attorney's office and the Independent Police Review Authority, the office that reviews shootings.

Under the new plan, the department will convene a second meeting to review evidence again after forensic and medical examiner reports are available.

"We are committed to a transparent process," interim Police Supt. Dana Starks said.

Starks said another potential change would involve Cook County assistant state's attorneys, who are responsible for reviewing any shooting for criminal charges, going to the scenes of officer-involved shootings. After the hearing, State's Attorney Richard Devine said he would consider the idea.

What the roundtable process really needs is civilians who could sit in on the process, said the Rev. Robin Hood, of Redeemed Outreach Ministries. "It will be somebody that is not biased toward the police [or] the mayor," he said.

Some people testifying Friday talked of frustration from not knowing the status of shooting investigations or whether officers were disciplined.

"Nothing has been answered," said Annie Johnson, the mother of Aaron Harrison, who was shot on the West Side over the summer by police.

Others said they had lost faith in the department, accusing officers of verbal abuse and targeting residents in minority communities.

"Our community is on edge," said the Rev. Steven Greer, pastor of the Christian Valley Missionary Baptist Church.

Copyright 2007 The Chicago Sun Times

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