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US Justice Department to investigate Chicago police

FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2014 frame from dash-cam video provided by the Chicago Police Department, Laquan McDonald, right, walks down the street moments before being shot by officer Jason Van Dyke in Chicago. Amid an outcry after the city waited... (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

CHICAGO (AP) - The Justice Department will investigate patterns of racial disparity in the use of force by Chicago police officers as part of a wide-ranging probe that could lead to calls for sweeping changes at one of the country's largest police departments, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Monday.

The investigation comes nearly two weeks after the release of a video showing a white Chicago police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times and ahead of the expected release of similar footage in another death at the hands of an officer.

The investigation, which is separate from an existing federal investigation into last year's shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, also will review how the department disciplines officers and handles misconduct accusations.

Justice Department officials say they use such patterns-and-practices investigations to identify systemic failings in troubled police departments and to improve trust between police and the communities they serve.

"This mistrust from members of the community makes it more difficult to gain help with investigations, to encourage victims and witnesses of crimes to speak up, and to fulfill the most basic responsibilities of public safety officials," Lynch said. "And when suspicion and hostility is allowed to fester, it can erupt into unrest."