By Robert Stitt
The American people have expressed their outrage over the shooting of unarmed black teen Laquan McDonald by a white Chicago police officer. The outrage was not just that Officer Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times as the teen was calmly walking down the street, but that the police department and city officials tried to cover the incident up. There was a police car dash cam that caught the entire incident on film, but the recording was hidden away for over a year. The nearby Burger King had its footage erased by fellow officers and, before a civil suit was ever filed by McDonald’s family, the city offered them $5 million dollars if they agreed to not discuss the video, which they likely had not even seen. This was something that the Chicago PD did not want the public to see or know about. The outrage of the people is more than just another dead black teen, though that would have been enough, it is about the failure of the system from the bottom to the top.
In his latest press conference, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, “Now is the time for fresh eyes and leadership. I take responsibility and none of us are above it.” Then he announced that he had asked for and received the resignation of Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Note that he did not announce his own resignation, or say that there would be any other charges brought in the teen’s shooting. He simply hoped that by giving the people a fall guy the tensions would ease.
Who is Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy? He is the man that Rahm Emanuel personally brought in to head up the police force in 2011, saying the city needed, “a leader with Garry’s depth of experience and a track record for delivering results.”
What results were those? According to the NAACP in New Jersey, where McCarthy previously served, McCarthy was “more concerned about improving the safety of downtown Newark than of its neighborhoods.” And the ACLU noted that “Newark police were plagued with problems from lax internal oversight to issues of excessive force during arrests.” Is it any wonder that under his leadership the Chicago police department has the same issues?
Emanuel said of McCarthy’s termination, “Superintendent McCarthy knows that a police officer is only as effective as when he has the trust of those he serves…the undeniable fact [is] that the public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded.” He did not mention the public’s distrust of city hall.
According to the Chicago Tribune, it was not just McCarthy that was at fault here. “Emanuel and his lawyers fought in court to keep a police dash-camera video of the shooting under wraps, arguing that releasing it publicly could interfere with a state’s attorney and federal investigations into the shooting.” they wrote.
Granted, McCarthy needed to go. He had lost the support of the people and the civic leadership. For many of the city’s black aldermen, the departure is long overdue with many having called ” for McCarthy to be replaced for months or years because of stubbornly high violent crime rates in their wards and in some cases their belief he wasn’t taking their concerns seriously.”
So, will a new Superintendent restore trust? Unlikely, unless there are many more changes in many more areas of city government and more people held accountable for yet another death. The Tribune put it like this, “For many Chicagoans, the story of McDonald’s death held an all-too-familiar set of circumstances: City Hall initially casts the incident as an act of police self-defense only for the facts to bear out a different story later.” And this goes well beyond Superintendent McCarthy.