Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired his top cop, Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, on Tuesday morning as the controversy over the 2014 shooting of Chicago teenager Laquan McDonald continues to reverberate in the Windy City.
As a seventh day of protests hit Chicago over the killing of the 17-year-old, who was shot 16 times, Mayor Emanuel, a former Obama Chief of Staff, asked for McCarthy’s resignation after standing shoulder-to-shoulder with him last week.
Saying “now is a time for fresh eyes and new leadership,” Mayor Emanuel told the city at a press conference that he is setting up a commission consisting of community leaders and experts to address the problems in the police department and to help him choose a new superintendent.
During the conference, Emanuel deflected questions about his own political motivations for delaying the release of the video of Officer John Van Dyke shooting McDonald. The incident happened just a few months before a re-election campaign in which Emanuel had faced an unusually strong challenge from Alderman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Emanuel noted that McCaarthy has a strong record that he should “be proud of,” and that he helped modernize the Chicago Police Department (CPD). But Emanuel went on to say that the escalating unrest in the community over the shooting of the teen has showed him that changes have to be made.
When asked by reporters why he was firing McCarthy, Emanuel said that he had become “a distraction.”
“He has become an issue rather than dealing with the issue,” the mayor said. “And a distraction. Now, I support, and I said it and noted the results of his work. A 34 percent reduction over the last four and a half years in crime. But we must get to that confidence and trust to build what I think is necessary, as I said, towards a solution. I have a lot of loyalty to what he’s done and him, but I have more loyalty to the city of Chicago, its future and the strength of that future and no one person trumps my commitment and my responsibility to the city of Chicago and its future.”
“I thanked him for his service,” Emanuel added, “but we now need to make a move in both leadership, the commission, the body cameras are all of a piece of starting to build that trust and that confidence and that’s essential to bringing the type of safety we want to see in the city of Chicago.”
The mayor also announced that John Escalante, an officer with a 29-year law enforcement career, will be the acting superintendent while the search for a new chief is carried out.
As to this commission, Emanuel called on Deval Patrick to lead the task force to address the problems of the CPD. Emanuel called Patrick a “Chicagoan,” despite the fact that Patrick has lived in Massachusetts for decades. Patrick is a former Mass. Governor and well-known civil rights lawyer, but was born in Chicago in 1956.
Emanuel said that panel, headed by Patrick will attempt to improve oversight of police misconduct; craft better rules to evaluate officers with repeated complaints of misconduct; address issues surrounding police dashcam and body camera videos, such as how and when to release them to the public; and other policies.
Reporters asked about why the city fought for an entire year against releasing the dashcam video of the 2014 death of the teenager, but Emanuel said that he felt that releasing the video might have compromised the investigation into the teen’s death.
Only an hour or so before he was fired, McCarthy had appeared on a morning TV news show in Chicago vowing not to resign over the Laquan McDonald shooting. But he abruptly canceled several other TV appearances for later in the day after the broadcast.
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