Chicago Police Chief Fired in Face of Mounting Pressure

Mayor Rahm Emanuel stood by police superintendent until very end but was forced to change his mind. Protesters say more still remains to be done.

Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired Tuesday amid growing calls for his ouster after a video released last week — after more than a year — showed the brutal killing of a Black teen by one of his officers.

The video, which the city of Chicago resisted releasing for more than a year and finally released last Tuesday evening only after a court order, shows 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot while walking away from police — and continuing to be shot while already lying motionless on the ground. Officials said Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times.

Despite the fatal shooting taking place in October 2014, Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder only last week and turned himself in the same day, just hours before the video’s public release.

Protesters and activists, which began taking to the streets last week and included such prominent voices as the Rev. Jesse Jackson, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and NAACP national president Cornell Brooks, have alleged the city covered up the incident for more than a year, suggesting Van Dyke would not have been charged had the video not been released.

In addition to calls for McCarthy’s resignation were demands that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez also resign.

Emanuel had scheduled a press conference for Tuesday to announce the creation of a task force on police accountability to review how the city trains and oversees its police officers, as well as to seek input from victims’ rights groups, law enforcement organizations, and youth and religious leaders.

As early as mid-morning Tuesday, that was still the plan, but Emanuel decided the mounting pressure required him to fire McCarthy, in addition to creating the task force.

On Friday, McCarthy told reporters that he had no intention of resigning, saying “The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back. If people peel away the onion on what’s happening right now in the policing world, you’re going to find a police department that is doing an exceptional job and quite frankly I’m not going to quit on the people of Chicago and I’ll never quit on these men and women.”

During Tuesday’s announcement Emanuel said that while McCarthy’s record “is a strong one, and one he can be proud of, now is a time for fresh eyes and new leadership.”

Emanuel said trust in the Chicago Police Department “has been shaken and eroded,” adding, “Our goal is to build the trust and confidence with the public. And at this point and at this juncture in the city, given what we are working on, he has become an issue rather than dealing with the issues.”

Meanwhile, Van Dyke, the officer charged with pulling the trigger 16 times until his gun’s magazine clip was empty, was released from jail Monday after posting 10 percent of his $1.5 million bail.

Van Dyke was initially denied bond by Cook County Criminal Court Judge Donald Panarese, who said he wanted to see the dash cam video of the shooting before determining bail. Van Dyke appeared in court on Monday in shackles where, according to reports, Panarese watched the video on his laptop before setting bail at $1.5 million.

Prosecutors asked the judge to stand by his previous ruling denying bond, but Van Dyke’s lawyer, Daniel Herbert, said his client posed no flight risk. Using $150,000 raised in part by members of the police union and other supporters, Van Dyke left the Cook County jail six days after turning himself in.

While Van Dyke was leaving jail, some protesters were being arrested, including the NAACP’s Brooks.

Brooks and students from the University of Chicago Divinity School and the McCormick Theological Seminary were marching, then knelt and prayed in front of Chicago City Hall before going into the middle of the street to kneel and pray, Brooks said on Twitter. He and nine others received citations and were released, Brooks said on Twitter, but not after “We were arrested and put in a paddy wagon.”

“The NAACP has a long history of standing up for injustice by using all the tools for justice, common among which is civil disobedience,” Brooks later said. “Sometimes, the best way for us to send a message to law enforcement in Chicago was to break the law.”

 

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