In an obvious effort to detach himself from the growing scandal in the Windy City, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired the police department’s top cop today, saying it was the first step in restoring confidence in the Chicago Police Department.
But the coverup of the Laquan McDonald police shooting death extends way above Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, up through the state attorney’s office and to the mayor’s office.
To truly restore confidence, both Emanuel and Cook County State Attorney Anita Alvarez need to lose their jobs.
And it needs to be done now.
After all, it is pretty obvious they tried their best to coverup the shooting to protect their political positions as was pointed out by university professor Bernard E. Harcourt in a New York Times opinion piece:
The Cook County prosecutor, Anita Alvarez, must have had probable cause to indict Officer Van Dyke for the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting death of Mr. McDonald the moment she viewed the police dash-cam video, after her office received it two weeks later. That video, in her own words, was “everything that it has been described to be by the news accounts. It is graphic. It is violent. It is chilling.”
Ms. Alvarez, and other city leaders, surely knew they would have to indict Mr. Van Dyke for murder as soon as the public saw that footage. “I have absolutely no doubt,” Ms. Alvarez finally said last week, “that this video will tear at the hearts of all Chicagoans.”
But the timing, in late 2014, was not good.
Then up for re-election, the mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, was looking ahead to a contested election on Feb. 24, 2015, which would ultimately result in a runoff election on April 7. In Ferguson, Mo., a grand jury was hearing testimony on the police shooting of Michael Brown. The video of Eric Garner being choked to death during an arrest in New York had gone viral. The Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum across the country.
The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election. And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy.
And so the wheels of justice virtually ground to a halt. Mayor Emanuel refused to make the dash-cam video public, going to court to prevent its release. The city argued that releasing the video would taint the investigation of the case, but even the attorney general of Illinois urged the city to make it available.
In other words it was Emanuel who had the final say in whether or not the video was released.
Firing McCarthy is the first step, who admitted today that the initial information about the shooting of McDonald was inaccurate.
Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy admitted Tuesday on NBC Chicago that the initial press release sent out after 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was fatally shot 16 times by an officer last year was wrong.
“The initial press release was mistaken, no two ways about it,” he said. “I guess that’s my fault.”
Police initially said an officer shot McDonald in the chest when the teen refused to drop a knife and continued to walk toward officers. Authorities also said the boy lunged at officers with the knife.
But dash-cam video of the shooting shows an officer shooting the teen several times as he appeared to walk away from police.
McCarthy added that he didn’t see dash-cam video of the shooting until the day after the press release went out.
So not only do we have a mayor who ordered the video not be released and a prosecutor who waited a year to file charges – and also found no wrongdoing in how police deleted surveillance video from a local Burger King – we have a police chief who claims he did not even see the video before describing what took place on the video.
And for that, he was making more than $400,000-a-year.
McCarthy is a liar, of course, as is Emanuel and Alvarez. They all saw the video and chose not to release it. Had it shown exactly what they described, they would have wasted no time in releasing the video.
Also part of the coverup is the president of the police union, who told the media that McDonald “lunged” at Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. The Fraternal Order of Police also paid the $1.5 million to bond Van Dyke out of jail and is also handling his attorney fees as he defends himself from the first-degree murder charge.
But we expect that from police unions which have proven to defend police officers at all costs. We even expect that from police chiefs.
But we should expect more from our prosecutors and mayors.