Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has fired the city’s police chief after a public outcry over the handling of the case of a black teenager shot 16 times by a white police officer.
Emanuel announced at a news conference Tuesday that he had dismissed superintendent Garry McCarthy, who only days ago insisted to reporters that the mayor "had his back.” In a press conference on Tuesday morning, Emanuel praised McCarthy’s leadership of the department, but said that as a police officer he was “only as effective as the trust in him.”
“Police officers are only effective if they are trusted by all Chicagoans, whoever they are and wherever they live. In order to bring the level of safety we deserve, people must have confidence in the system. They must trust in the system.”
Emanuel also announced a six-person task force, including former governor Deval Patrick, which will do “a top-to-bottom review of the system,” he said.
The mayor said that McCarthy’s resignation would be “not the end of the problem, but ... the beginning of the solution to the problem.”
Cook County commissioner Richard Boykin, who has long been a thorn in the side of the Emanuel administration, called for a federal enquiry into Emanuel’s role in the McDonald saga. Boykin said the firing “still does not give the public a sense of trust or that it won’t be business as usual”
“This is just another task force that’s really window-dressing, if you will. This is nothing,” he added. “What the mayor has to do is welcome a federal investigation into his role: what did he know and when did he know it?”
Mariame Kaba, the director of youth outreach organisation Project NIA and a member of We Charge Genocide, a project which chronicles police violence in Chicago, said Emanuel ought to resign too. “I think he’s lost complete confidence of the city,” she said.
Emanuel and McCarthy began a discussion on the direction of the department on Sunday, the mayor said, and “the underlying fact that the public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken.” He said that he formally requested the superintendent’s resignation on Tuesday morning.
McCarthy’s deputy, John Escalante, will be acting chief of the department until a replacement can be found. McCarthy had been chief since May 2011.
Protesters have been calling for McCarthy’s dismissal for days in response to the handling of the shooting of Laquan McDonald. The black 17-year-old was shot 16 times by a white police officer in October 2014.
The city released police dashcam video of the shooting only after a judge ordered it to be made public. Its release last week set off several days of largely peaceful protests. Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder.
Despite his administration fighting not to release the video for the best part of a year - until forced by a court order - Emanuel repeated in Tuesday’s press conference that he had only watched the video of McDonald’s death a week ago.
Brandon Smith, who sued for the McDonald case, said that “McCarthy may be gone and the mayor is finally talking about the systemic issues, but I and many others intend to hold him accountable for the reforms he says he’ll make.”
“And we don’t want to wait months and months,” he continued. “Right now, Rahm can send a clear message to the police force — that McCarthy’s ouster is not just a political sacrifice —by immediately releasing all the internal documents and communication about Laquan McDonald’s case.”