Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has recommended seven officers be fired for their involvement in cover ups following the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald.
Tenofficers were investigated for their involvement in the shooting and its aftermath, seven of who were accused of making false reports and giving false statements. Two officers have retired. Police spokesman Anthony Gugliemi said the department “respectfully disagrees” with the general inspector’s recommendation to fire the tenth officer and “feels that there is insufficient evidence to prove those respective allegations.”
Johnson stripped the officers in question of their police status. The officers can contest the action before the Police Board, which was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“While I know that this type of action can come with many questions and varying opinions, please know that these decisions were not made lightly,” Johnson wrote in an email to officers. “Each of these decisions was based on a methodical and substantive review of the facts by both internal and external counsel. Each officer will have their right to due process.”
McDonald, 17, was shot and killed by Officer Jason Van Dyke in 2014. Van Dyke alleged that he was in fear for his life. But dash cam footage disproved Van Dyke’s account of the incident, as well as the stories told by officers who corroborated Van Dyke’s version of events. Officers alleged that McDonald was approaching them menacingly with a knife. While McDonald was later found to have a knife, the footage released last year, 400 days after the shooting, showed McDonald walking away from officers not approaching them.
Van Dyke opened fire and shot McDonald 16 times, with some shots fired when McDonald was already on the ground. He has been charged with first degree murder and is currently on unpaid leave.
The seven officers Johnson recommended for firing have not been publicly identified. However, the Chicago Tribune reported that one of the officers is Joe Walsh, Van Dyke’s partner.
The news comes just a few weeks after another Black teenager, Paul O’Neal, was shot and killed by a Chicago police officer.
O’Neal was suspected of driving a stolen vehicle, and a chase with police ensued. Video footage shows officers handcuffing O’Neal, who was unarmed, after he is shot and bleeding on the ground. Available dash cam and body cam footage was released, but the officer who killed O’Neal did not have their body cam turned on. Johnson later reported that the body cam program had just been implemented about a week prior to the shooting.
Steps to Improve Chicago’s Deep-Rooted Corruption
McDonald’s death and the subsequent release of the video footage sparked outrage and protests in the city of Chicago. It also brought to light the city’s years of corruption. Emanuel fired the city’s former police chief, and protesters called for Emanuel to step down as well. But Emanuel announced numerous times that he had no plans of stepping down.
The city’s Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) has been under scrutiny since before the video of McDonald’s death came out, and the release of the footage only raised further questions. Formed in 2007, the IPRA was created to investigate complaints against officers and officer-involved shootings. However, many IPRA workers were former police officers themselves, which raised suspicion when almost no officer-related shootings were deemed unjustified.
Lorenzo Davis, who spent over two decades on the Chicago police force before retiring in 2004, went on to work for the IPRA. He alleged he was fired last July for refusing to classify officer-involved shootings from “unjustified” to “justified.”
Several months ago, Emanuel announced his plan to disband the IPRA. However, newly appointed chief administrator Sharon Fairley is working to turn the IPRA’s reputation around.
In 2014, the IPRA found no wrongdoing in the death of Philip Coleman, who died in 2012 while in police custody. However, video footage released last year showed Chicago Police Department employees using a Taser on him repeatedly and beating him. On Wednesday, a new IPRA investigation recommended suspensions ranging from one month to four months for six officers. IPRA would have also recommended an additional sergeant who has already retired be dismissed. However, the IPRA recommended to Johnson that he “take any and all action to prevent him from future employment with the City of Chicago.”
Meanwhile, Emanuel has called for the city to be more transparent with police evidence, announcing in February that the department would now be required to release any evidence pertaining to a police shooting or incident of misconduct within 60 days, including video footage.
A study updated earlier this month reviewed police body cam policies of 50 police departments across the country and found that none of them are effectively and appropriately implementing these policies yet in eight measured criteria. Chicago’s policy scored a six out of eight. But questions arose in O’Neal’s case as to why the officer who fired the shots did not have their camera on, when other officers at the scene did.