The Chicago police officer charged with murder in the death of Laquan McDonald was the subject of at least 18 citizen complaints before the October 2014 incident, reports WLS. Jason Van Dyke was accused of excessive force in 10 of those incidents over his 14-year career, including two when he allegedly used a firearm to cause injury, reports the Washington Post, via data compiled by the University of Chicago and nonprofit Invisible Institute. Van Dyke, however, has never been disciplined, reports WLS. "We don't have all of Van Dyke's complaints"—the data only includes complaints those from 2002 to 2008 and 2011 to 2015—but the "misconduct complaints … show by and large excessive force and racial slurs," an Institute rep says. "And he has largely operated with impunity and under a code of silence with the same huddle of officers again and again."
NBC News reports 20 complaints address Van Dyke, including four that appear to be open investigations. "I think there's a pattern of 'investigation as cover-up,'" says Invisible Institute's founder, Jamie Kalven. "As long as you can say there is a pending investigation, you don't have to acknowledge the reality of what happened." The Institute says about 80% of officers receive no more than four complaints during their careers, but 20% make up "barrels of bad apples." One Chicago officer received 68 complaints but escaped disciplinary action, reports the New York Times. Only about 5% of complaints result in penalties, and white officers were half as likely to be disciplined as black officers, per the Post. Kalven says departments should monitor the number of complaints an officer receives so they can "intervene and keep small things from becoming big things." If such a strategy were in place, "perhaps Laquan McDonald would be alive today." (Read more Jason Van Dyke stories.)