Lack of body cameras fuels suspicion in Chicago shooting

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Ariel Atkins, a lead organizer for Black Lives Matter Chicago, leads a protest Monday, Aug. 10, 2020, outside the Chicago Police Department's District 1 station in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO – A police force with a history of brutality and racism created a new crime-fighting team, but on one of its first forays into the streets, the group did not wear body cameras, which would have shown whether a man accused of firing a gun at officers was, in fact, armed.

That’s where the Chicago Police Department finds itself in the wake of a police shooting of a Black man that prompted hundreds of vandals to descend on the city's famed Magnificent Mile shopping area, where they smashed store windows and made off with everything from clothing to cash registers.

Latrell Allen, 20, appeared in court Tuesday on charges of attempted murder and was ordered held on a $1 million bond. Police said he fired at officers before they returned fire and wounded him. Authorities have said they found a gun at the scene, but they acknowledge that the officers who shot him were not wearing cameras.

Investigators have reviewed video from a surveillance camera that captures the pursuit of a man matching Allen’s description, but the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, or COPA, has not found video that shows Allen was carrying a gun, spokesman Ephrain Eaddy said.

COPA has made a public request for any witnesses to the shooting to come forward and asked anyone with cellphone video of the shooting to provide it to investigators.

In announcing that the officers were not wearing body cameras, the police department stressed that it “understands how technology can support accountability and transparency.” In the past, the department has pointed to its rollout of body cameras as among the most extensive of any police force in the nation.

But department spokesman Howard Ludwig said citywide teams, including the team that Superintendent David Brown created last month to respond to crime hot spots, do not yet have the cameras.

“It's a matter of resources,” Ludwig said. “We don't have enough to go around."