CHICAGO (CBS) — Some Chicago Police officers facing firing in connection with the Laquan McDonald shooting will be able to return to work after the Chicago Police Board postponed the disciplinary actions until after officer Jason Van Dyke’s criminal trial.
Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of 17-year-old McDonald.
Four other officers had been suspended without pay and have been recommended for firing for signing reports that said McDonald, holding a knife, was walking toward officers when he was shot 16 times in 2014.
The Chicago Police Board had been asked to postpone its work so the officers’ statements during the internal investigations can’t be used during the criminal trial. Officers must answer questions from internal investigators or face being fired.
“Given the due-process concerns related to suspending these officers without pay during the
period of an indefinite stay of their cases, the board now find that there is no basis for their continued suspension pending the hearing on the charges against them.” the board ruled.
CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller said the board was “concerned they were going to taint the jury pool, which could have meant the murder charge against Van Dyke would be dismissed and the charges against the officers, if they ever came about, could be dismissed.”
FOP President Kevin Graham praised the ruling: “We believe that the department should not have suspended these officers and that doing so did violate their rights. We are pleased with the ruling.”
CBS 2 legal analysit Irv Miller, said the board was “concerned they were going to taint the jury pool, which could have meant the murder charge against Van Dyke would be dismissed and the charges against the officers, if they ever came about, could be dismissed.”
Video recordings appear to show McDonald was walking away from the officers when he was shot.
Van Dyke’s attorney, as well as a special prosecutor investigating the behavior of other officers on the scene, were also seeking to have disciplinary proceedings put on hold because statements they were required to make during the internal investigation could surface and potentially have a negative impact on Van Dyke’s criminal case.
Van Dyke’s lawyers have cited a legal precedent that prohibits statements made by government employees during internal investigations from being used in criminal proceedings.
Van Dyke is suspended without pay and is not seeking to be reinstated to the police force.
The other four officers had argued they should be able to go back to work and earn a paycheck if there is a long delay in the disciplinary process.
“Termination charges were filed by the Superintendent, nothing has materially changed and we have no intentions of returning these officers to the street,” police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said in a statement issued Sunday.
“We stand firmly behind this decision. As a party to this process, it is inappropriate for CPD to comment or speculate on any actions before the Police Board.”