Chicago Police Chief Garry McCarthy Fired By Mayor Rahm Emanuel
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A major scandal is currently engulfing the Chicago Police Department and the city's mayor, Rahm Emanuel. It was all triggered by disclosure of a horrific video showing what appears to be the cold-blooded murder by a police officer of 17-year-old African-American Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times. That video shocked the nation and led to the arrest of the police officer as well as a Justice Department investigation of the department.
For more than a year, the city fought to suppress that video, ensuring Emanuel's re-election could proceed without knowledge of what happened. A New York Times op-ed by former University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt explicitly accused Emanuel and the city of deliberately covering up the video to help the mayor's re-election campaign, arguing that "the video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel's chances for re-election." Harcourt added, "These actions have impeded the criminal justice system and, in the process, Chicago's leaders allowed a first-degree murder suspect, now incarcerated pending bail, to remain free for over a year on the city's payroll."
That this video is now public is largely due to the heroic, relentless work of a young independent journalist in Chicago, Brandon Smith. Numerous large media outlets filed requests for that video under the state's FOIA laws, and simply took "no" for an answer when the city claimed its release would jeopardize an ongoing investigation. Smith, however, regarded the city's claims with skepticism rather than blind reverence, retained his own lawyers, and sued the city in court. He won, and a Chicago judge ordered release of the video.
And now, as my colleague Juan Thompson reported yesterday, the resulting transparency is shining light on other police killings in the city. As he wrote, "The Chicago Police Department has an extensive and troubling legacy of violence. Over the last five years, Chicago officers have fatally shot 70 people, more than any other big-city police department in the U.S."