Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that officials, police and citizens of his city “need a painful and honest reckoning in what went wrong” surrounding the death of Laquan McDonald and other instances in which police officers have used excessive force.
During a special City Council meeting he’d convened, Emanuel said that he was sorry for circumstances surrounding McDonald’s death — including the fact it took 13 months before police dashboard camera video of his shooting was released and the officer who killed him was charged.
“I own it,” the mayor said. “I take responsibility for what happened, because it happened on my watch.”
His speech Wednesday, however, was not just about what happened the night of October 20, 2014, when Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke killed McDonald, a black teenager. The city resisted releasing dashcam video showing the shooting until late last month, then did so the same day Van Dyke was charged with murder.
Emanuel also talked more broadly about the lack of respect that some Chicagoans have for members of their police department, a sentiment made worse by their feelings that complaints too often fall on deaf years.
“We have a trust problem,” he said.
Several officer-involved shootings
The mayor had a lot of news to work with ahead of Wednesday’s speech — little of it good.
The most high-profile case relates to McDonald. The 13-month gap from the time of the incident until the charge and video release was too long for some, who accused police and Emanuel of a cover-up. It contributed to Garry McCarthy losing his job as Chicago’s police superintendent and spurred calls for Emanuel himself to resign.
The furor grew even more after the city released reports over the weekend in which accounts offered by police on the scene appeared to contradict what the graphic video footage shows.
And Laquan McDonald’s death isn’t the only one that’s dogged Chicago city and police officials.
So, too, has the case of Ronald Johnson, who was killed by police eight days before McDonald. It wasn’t until Monday that reporters first saw video of that incident, with Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez saying the officer who killed Johnson won’t face charges.
There’s also 17-year-old Cedrick LaMont Chatman, whose 2013 death near a bus stop was captured by four video cameras.
The Chicago agency that investigates all police-involved shootings, the Independent Police Review Authority, deemed the shooting justified. But Lorenzo Davis, that agency’s original supervising investigator on the case, didn’t agree.
Davis says he was fired in July when he refused to change his report.
Justice Department probing Chicago police
As he’s done before, Emanuel took pains Wednesday to say that most Chicago police officers, day in and day out, do an excellent job. And it’s a very difficult one, given the dangers in parts of the city.
Chicago began being called the murder capital of the United States back in 2012, after it registered 503 homicides, more than any other city. It didn’t get much better, with the FBI’s 2014 statistics showing 411 killings — more than the 333 in New York and 260 in Los Angeles, two cities with higher populations.
At the same time, the mayor said Monday that he welcomes a U.S. Justice Department investigation into Chicago police.
The federal “pattern-and-practice” probe, as it’s called, will look into whether city officers have made a habit of violating the law or the U.S. Constitution while on the beat, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“We accept it, and we need it,” Emanuel said earlier this week of the federal investigation. “… None of the measures we have taken have ever measured up to the seriousness, the scope, the scale of the challenge in front of us as a city.”
By Greg Botelho, CNN