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Chicago's Top Cop Fired

Tagged under: News Chicago Illinois Politics Criminal Justice
By Expeal on December 1, 2015.

A picture of Garry McCarthy.

It took over a year, but the dashcam video of the shooting death of Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer who put 16 shots into McDonald within 6 seconds of exiting his vehicle was finally released. The shooting took place on October 20, 2014 but the video was not released to the public until November 24, 2015, after a journalist sued the city and hours after the officer was charged with first-degree murder. The city of Chicago had reached a $5 million settlement with McDonald's video before his family even filed suit and fought to keep the video under wraps. City officials feared unrest, but perhaps what they feared most is that they knew heads would roll as soon what happened was brought to light.

How It Got To This Point

This morning, Garry McCarthy was asked to resign as superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. This request came from Chicago's second-term mayor, Rahm Emanuel. McCarthy started as police chief of New York City before moving to Newark and finally ending up in Chicago. While serving as Chicago's top police official, he was the highest paid public employee, making $260,004 per year.

McCarthy's time was not without controversy. An investigative report in Chicago Magazine by reporters David Bernstein and Noah Isackson found that the decrease in crime and murders that McCarthy liked to tout as signs of progress were due to unjustifiably re-categorizing murders as some other form of crime. Another tactic used was counting murder statistics for previous years. While McCarthy claimed that the report was false, the Chicago Inspector General's audit (PDF warning) found that under his watch, the Chicago PD had under-counted aggravated assault and aggravated battery victims by 25%. McCarthy blamed this on Jody Weis, his predecessor.

But the Laquan McDonald controversy proved to be the controversy that was too big to be covered up or papered over. After news broke that a Burger King in the area had their security video footage tampered with, McCarthy's time ran out. It is telling that he was doing his rounds with morning talk shows when he was informed that he had to return to Chicago PD headquarters right away.

What Comes Next

A picture of Rahm Emanuel.

At a news conference announcing the decision, Emanuel said that he "formally asked Superintendent McCarthy for his resignation" in the morning. He then announced a 5-person task force, asking them to "recommend reforms to the current system to improve independent oversight of police misconduct, ensure officers with repeated complaints are identified and evaluated appropriately, and establish best practice for release of videos of police-involved incidents."

Emanual put it succinctly when he pointed out that "trust in the leadership of the [police] department has been shaken and eroded." As a result, he wants to make sure there are "fresh eyes and new leadership" put in charge of bringing change to a department that, through corruption and violence, has led to the city being called the murder capital when it is anything but that.

First Deputy John Escalante, who is a 29-year veteran that only got the job as second-in-command in October, had tried but failed to win the appointment of the mayor for this very position back in 2011 before McCarthy was hired. Escalante will most likely do what he can to make this a permanent promotion while Emanuel and his staff begin their search for McCarthy's replacement.

Accountability

Expeal's collage of profile photos of the task force members.

Before the request for his resignation came through, McCarthy was on ABC 7,/, discussing his future as well as the history of the officer who was released on $1.5 million bail.

When asked why the officer had yet to be disciplined even though he had received 18 civilian complaints in 14 years of service, McCarthy pointed his finger at the Independent Police Review Authority. He said the complaints "were investigated by the outside agency that the community is clamoring for. That's IPRA. Our authority in investigating those complaints is not very strong."

Former prosecutor Sergio Acosta, Inspector General Joseph Ferguson, former director of the Illinois State Police Hiram Grau, Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot, University of Chicago Law School professor Randolph Stone – the 5 members of the mayor's new task force – will be tasked with figuring out what changes need to happen to make sure that line is never used by whoever will take over McCarthy's office. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick will be a "senior adviser" to the group.

State Senator Kwame Raoul reminded everyone not to hope for a quick fix. "I don't know that the problem is the superintendent as much as it is more of a systemic problem within the law enforcement process in the city of Chicago. And so I think as we've seen outside eyes come into Ferguson, into Cleveland, I think we need those same outside yes to come into Chicago and see what we need to do systemically, beyond removing an individual, to make change. Because if we think that simply with the removal of this superintendent and replacement with another the problem is solved, we're fooling ourselves. I think we need more than the replacement of the superintendent."

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