Chicago police tactical teams again under scrutiny after fatal shooting of Dexter Reed

Police reform experts argue units have long history of abuse in Chicago, have not been effective in fighting crime

Sarah Schulte Image
Wednesday, April 10, 2024
CPD tactical teams again under scrutiny after Dexter Reed shooting
Chicago police tactical teams are once again under scrutiny after the deadly Dexter Reed shooting. COPA continues to investigating the incident.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The topic of tactical teams is once again being discussed after the recent Chicago police shooting death of 26-year-old Dexter Reed.

Tactical teams have a long history in Chicago. The plain-clothes officers often police in high-crime areas.

"They are often called, 'jump out boys,' 'the cowboys.' They jump out of the car aggressively, not trained in deescalation," said Craig Futterman, with University of Chicago Law.

Police reform experts argue the units have a long history of abuse in Chicago, and have not been effective in fighting crime. The Chicago Civilian Office of Police Accountability said part of its investigation should include the role of the unit on March 21.

Reed, 26, was killed by Chicago police on March 21 during a traffic stop that ended with dozens of bullets fired and a police officer injured.

COPA released bodycam video Tuesday of the deadly police shooting last month in Garfield Park.

"If there are things about the way that this tactical unit was operating, that may be indicative of a wider issue with tactical units in general," COPA Chief Administrator Andrea Kersten said.

The way tactical units operate has been a source of controversy in Chicago for years.

Many question the role of the tactical unit and how a seat belt stop turned deadly so quickly.

The March 21 incident produced 96 shots fired from four tactical officers, spurring Kersten to send a memo two weeks ago to Chicago Police Superintendent Larry Snelling, suggesting the officers involved be stripped of their police powers.

"We have the ability to make sort of intermediate recommendations while the investigation is pending," Kersten said.

COPA is questioning the validity of the stop over a seat belt violation, as Reed's vehicle had dark-tinted windows.

Kersten said within seconds of the stop, Reed fired first, after he refused police commands to roll down his window and get out of his SUV.

How many shots Reed fired is still being investigated.

"There's additional ballistic evidence that was recovered from inside his vehicle, but we have to await further testing to confirm," Kersten said.

And law enforcement experts say despite the amount of bullets that flew from officers' guns, they have the legal right to fire back.

"There are rounds coming out of that car, and they really worked themselves back to a position of cover. They can't just stand there on the street; they're justified in doing so," former Aurora police Cmdr. Rick Robertson said.

With all the evidence gathered by COPA, it is up to the Cook County state's attorney to determine if the officers were using excessive force.

Prosecutors plan to interview the officers involved in the deadly shooting later this week.

Reed's brother, 24-year-old Julius Reed, was arrested around 6:44 p.m. Tuesday night as protests erupted outside the Harrison District police station at 3151 W. Harrison St., according to an arrest report and the Reed family's attorney, Andrew Stroth.

Details of the arrest are sparse, but Julius Reed was unarmed and resisted arrest, according to the report.

Reed was charged with battery and two counts of resisting arrest, all misdemeanors, according to the arrest report.

"This young man just lost his brother, and I know the plan was to peacefully protest," Stroth told the Chicago Sun-Times. "They want justice for their brother."

The Tuesday protest was marked by clashes between protesters and police, a heckler shouting "He shot a police officer" and one person hospitalized during the altercation.

After he was taken into custody, activist groups called for Reed's release on social media, urging people to call Chicago police.

Sun-Timed Media contributed to this report.

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