Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a bold yet belated
move when he fired his embattled police superintendent in the wake of a
national uproar surrounding the release of a chilling video that captured the
police killing of a teen--a ward of the city of Chicago.
Included in that uproar is anger over mounting evidence of a cover-up connected to the brutal and unjustified shooting graphically displayed on that video. Political and civic leaders in Chicago had demanded the removal of Chicago top cop Garry McCarthy months before Emanuel's uproar-triggered ouster of his police superintendent.
If Mayor Emanuel is really serious about his stated desire to rebuild "public trust" he needs to do two other things and do those two things quickly.
The first thing Emanuel needs to do is issue a strong public rebuke of Chicago's top prosecutor, Anita Alvarez.
This prosecutor dragged her feet for over a year on indicting the policeman shown in that video firing 16-shots in the space of 15 seconds into Laquan McDonald. That police video clearly shows the 17-year-old McDonald walking away from police, not lurching towards officers. Chicago's Police Department, then headed by McCarthy, along with its police union had maintained since McDonald's fatal shooting in October 2014 that the teen was approaching the officers.
Alvarez did not charge Officer Jason Van Dyke with murder until after the release of the police video that captured McDonald's wrongful death. Mayor Emanuel had fought against release of that video for over a year, claiming it would undermine ongoing investigations into McDonald's death --- a stance Alvarez embraced as her explanation for not filing charges against Van Dyke earlier. Of course Alvarez had full access to the video of McDonald's thus had evidence that McDonald's death was a crime not a justified police action.
Hispanic leaders in Chicago --- political and civic --- are among those calling for the resignation of Alvarez, the first Hispanic to hold that post in Chicago.
The second thing Emanuel needs to do is resign. The mounting evidence of a multi-layer cover-up surrounding the killing of McDonald includes actions by Emanuel himself.
Chicago's mayor contends he did not view the McDonald murder video until hours before its release --- a release ordered by a Chicago judge over Emanuel's objection. Yet, months ago Emanuel approved a $5-million payout to McDonald's estranged family. The mayor authorized that payout before that family had even filed a lawsuit over the shooting. (McDonald was not living with his family at the time of his death, having bounced around Chicago's foster care system for years.)
If Emanuel approved that payout without first viewing the video that contradicted the official "justified shooting" posture of his Police Department then he was irresponsible with the purse strings of his cash-strapped city.
If on the other hand Emanuel was aware of the contents of that video and approved the payout that occurred at the time he was locked in a tough struggle to beat back a surprisingly strong electoral challenge to unseat him, then that payout was arguably silencing money aimed at preventing an inevitable public uproar had the true details of McDonald's death come out during that tight reelection race. Withholding that video helped Emanuel eke out a re-election win.
Emanuel's actions/inactions in the McDonald matter, either through his irresponsible mismanaging of Chicago's money or through his mendacious efforts to maintain his post as mayor, have displayed convincing evidence that this man who has been a congressman, former Chief of Staff to President Obama and Chicago's Mayor, is unfit to hold public office.
Shortly before Emanuel sacked top cop McCarthy from his $260,000 salaried post, the mayor announced formation of a task force to review all aspects of the Chicago Police Department --- a police force with a decades-long history of brutality and corruption.
If the announced task force review is not simply another ploy to provide political cover for Emanuel, why didn't he set up a task force earlier this year in the wake of news reports that Chicago had paid out $521-million between 2004-2014 due to police misconduct that has ranged from false arrests to excessive force? Misconduct by Chicago's police cost $50-million in 2014 --- a sum that news reports stated totaled more than the combined budgets of Chicago's mayor office, city treasurer office, city council and its department of human services.
Why indeed didn't Emanuel establish a review in September 2013, when he made an unprecedented apology for a two-decades long reign of torture and terror by a secret unit inside the CPD that cost the city over $85-million in payouts to victims -- some of whom spent years on death row falsely as a result of torture-induced testimony?