Bypassing U.S., Civil Rights Groups Sue Chicago Over Abuses by the Police

In Judiciary and Courts, Racism On

Hoping to step into the breach left by the end of the Obama administration’s aggressive approach to civil rights abuses by the police, a coalition of civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Chicago on Wednesday.

The lawsuit, which seeks sweeping changes to a police force with a well-documented pattern of excessive force and other misconduct, comes five months after Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to cooperate with the Justice Department to implement a police reform plan supervised by the federal courts.

But the change at the White House cooled the federal appetite to intervene in police departments, and critics say Mr. Emanuel has been all too happy to negotiate a less stringent deal.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, is the latest chapter in the city’s long-running saga over how its Police Department treats the blacks and Hispanics that each comprise about a third of its population. It catalogs episodes of controversial police use of force dating back to the 1960s.

Without federal court oversight, the plaintiffs contend, little will change in a city that has perennially faced racially tinged police-abuse scandals.

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