NEW YORK, New York – Chicago Police officers Rahami J. Ahmed is pictured in this booking photo released by the Cook County Sheriff’s office December 16, 2014. REUTERS/Cook County Sheriff’s Office/Handout /File Photo
— Democratic attorneys general in New York and Illinois are reopening old cases against police officers in hopes of disproving unfounded allegations of wrongdoing and restore public confidence in the justice system, officials said on Monday.
In a study they commissioned last year, the attorneys general found that officers were accused of 60,000 crimes between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2016, but only 10,200 cases were officially prosecuted, the officials said.
The retooled investigations will include teaming local police officers with prosecutors in a bid to uncover which officers were accused of wrongdoing in the first place, said Eric Holder, a former U.S. attorney general who worked on the study with former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The success of that effort will help to restore police and prosecutors’ “trust and credibility in the courts, resulting in a safer community for all,” Holder and Schneiderman said in a joint statement.
Chicago’s incoming Democratic mayor, Rahm Emanuel, also was at the news conference on Monday. Chicago has seen a wave of officer-involved shootings since 2015 that contributed to deteriorating public relations between law enforcement and the city’s African-American and Latino communities.
“In the event of a police-involved shooting, every family deserves to know that all of the facts are known before that officer is placed on trial,” Emanuel said.
The efforts could reverse years of public criticism that many police shootings involved black men.
Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that “the impact of the news conference will be long-lasting.”
The two attorneys general’ combined efforts have so far resulted in charges and convictions against several officers for improper arrests, holding suspects illegally, and property crimes.
“Our work is far from over,” Schneiderman said.
The Justice Department recommended these new investigations in an Oct. 17 letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Sessions announced in September that the department was taking steps to reduce federal oversight of local police departments following a wave of protests after police killings of black men.
Sessions decided not to renew a 2009 agreement under which the Justice Department monitored and improved policing in Chicago. He ended the “Holder-Pecora” panel in the face of claims from civil rights advocates that it had dragged its feet on investigations of police departments.