Chicago Police Intentionally Damaged Dashcams, Microphones

Recently released information on the use of dashcam videos and accompanying audio recordings shed light not only on the the absence of audio on the videos of the Laquan McDonald shooting in Oct. 2014, but point to a more pervasive problem within the Chicago Police Department (CPD).

The lack of any audio recordings on the night of Oct. 20, 2014 when Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times by then-police officer Jason Van Dyke has been a mystery ever since the dashcam recordings were released to the public in Nov. 2015. With multiple police vehicles at the scene of the shooting, there wasn’t a single audio recording available for the incident. When investigators checked, they found that three of the police cruisers at the scene also did not have video recordings of the incident on their dashcams.

In a report released in Dec. 2015, the CPD revealed that their investigation found that 80 percent of the 850 dashcams issued to the department’s patrol cars do not record audio, with 12 percent not recording video, determined to be the result of officer error and intentional destruction.

When DNAinfo Chicago took a close look at the report they found that among the issues with the non-functioning or malfunctioning dashcams intended to provide clear evidence of police activity in order to protect both law enforcement and private citizens:

  • Microphones were stashed in patrol car glove boxes
  • Batteries were removed from units
  • Some dashcams were never provided with audio components
  • Microphone antennas went missing or were broken (

In addition to the destruction or absence of use of the available equipment by Chicago police officers, necessary repairs were sometimes done months after reports of problems were made known.

80 percent of the 850 dashcams in the CPD do not record audio

80 percent of the 850 dashcams in the CPD do not record audio.

In the case of Jason Van Dyke and his patrol partner, Joseph Walsh, and the vehicle No. 6412 assigned to them, the records show that the two officers reported the dashcam unit broken in March 2014, with the repair occurring on June 17, 2014. The next day, the unit was again reported as broken – damage the repair technicians deemed to be intentional – when it was repaired on Oct. 8, 2014. Just twelve days later, Oct. 20, 2014 when Van Dyke shot Laquan McDonald 16 times, the audio on that dashcam was inoperable.

CPD refused to release the dashcam videos from the Oct. 20, 2014 shooting that resulted in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, citing that doing so could interfere with the ongoing investigation. After the incident, CPD indicated that McDonald had been shot once and in an obvious case of self-defense on the part of Van Dyke, the shooting officer. When the video was released in Nov. 2015, the facts of the incident spoke clearly for themselves.

This is an extremely graphic video. For adults only. Please view using your own discretion.

Van Dyke is no longer with the CPD and was officially charged with first-degree murder in the death of McDonald on Nov. 24, 2015, the same day the video was later released to the public in response to a court order to do so. Van Dyke’s partner, Joseph Walsh, whose reports of the incident backed up Van Dyke’s version of events, is on desk duty pending the outcome of criminal and disciplinary investigations.

Radio logs from the night of October 20th reveal that an officer reported that the teen was walking away, rather than charging at officers as Van Dyke had asserted and was carrying a small knife. The dispatcher communicating with officers on the scene suggested the use of a Taser, asking if any of the officers present had a Taser. None of the eight officers there had a Taser.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been under pressure from the public since the Nov. 2015 dashcam video was released, said of the absence of a Taser on-scene, “If you have eight officers — like in the Laquan McDonald situation — all calling for a Taser and none of them have it, we have a problem.” (


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