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Illinois AG investigating police department for possible systemic civil rights violations

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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced Wednesday that his office is launching an investigation into “possible patterns or practices of unconstitutional or unlawful policing” by the Joliet Police Department, according to a news release.

Raoul said the investigation follows requests made by Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and members of the city council, who sent a letter last year to request an investigation into the case of Eric Lurry, a Black man who died in police custody, according to USA Today. Raoul’s office launched the probe after a preliminary investigation.

“It is clear that a formal investigation is needed to look at whether the department has engaged in patterns or practices of unlawful or unconstitutional policing,” Raoul said. “In the coming weeks, the Attorney General’s office will conduct a thorough, impartial and independent review of whether reforms are needed under the law.”

The investigation comes 20 months after a video leaked by Sgt. Javier Esqueda showed officers allegedly abusing a man, identified as Lurry, before he later died in police custody. Officers were reportedly hitting him and restricting his breathing during a drug overdose. The case became engulfed in controversy after Esqueda told the media about his department’s alleged attempts to conceal the footage.

Esqueda was later arrested and placed on leave for his actions.

Raoul’s office said it would not make any specific findings about Lurry’s death or about the alleged retaliation against Esqueda. However, Raoul’s staff will “seek input from the public on their interactions with Joliet law enforcement in public and private meetings,” the press release said. 

“We have begun meeting with government officials, law enforcement personnel, community advocates and people directly affected by policing in Joliet,” he said. “I appreciate the cooperative approach expressed by city and departmental leadership.”

Tags Illinois Illinois Investigation Joliet Kwame Raoul policing

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