Chicago police chief out, force faces review over black teen's death

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced during a news conference that he had asked Garry McCarthy, police superintendent since May 2011, to resign.

Reuters| Last Updated: Dec 02, 2015, 01:28 AM IST

Chicago: Chicago`s police chief was ousted on Tuesday after days of protest over a white officer`s shooting of a black teenager 16 times and the department`s refusal to release a video of the killing for more than a year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced during a news conference that he had asked Garry McCarthy, police superintendent since May 2011, to resign. The mayor also said he was creating a new police accountability task force.

The white officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged a week ago with first-degree murder in the killing of Laquan McDonald. The video was released on the same day.

High-profile killings of black men at the hands of mainly white law enforcement officials in US cities have fuelled demonstrations for some two years, stoking a national debate on race relations and police tactics.

The mayor, a Democrat and the former chief of staff to US President Barack Obama, said he was responsible for what happened in the case, the same as the police superintendent.

"I`m responsible. I don`t shirk that responsibility," Emanuel said. He added that the creation of the task force was meant to rebuild trust in the police department of one of the country`s largest cities.

Emanuel said McCarthy had become "a distraction." In an editorial on Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times had called for McCarthy`s resignation. The Chicago City Council black caucus and some protesters had also called for him to leave.

“I have a lot of loyalty to what he’s done and him, but I have more loyalty to the city of Chicago and its future,” Emanuel said.

Street violence an issue for mayor

Policing and street violence have emerged as leading issues for Emanuel since his election in April to a second term after being forced into a runoff. The mayor, McCarthy and Cook County State`s Attorney Anita Alvarez have faced criticism for taking 13 months to release the video of the 2014 shooting and to charge Van Dyke.

By naming a commission and removing McCarthy, Emanuel could be hoping to deflect criticism of his own handling of the case. Soon after Emanuel`s re-election, the city agreed to a $5 million settlement with the 17-year-old’s family.

The video shows Van Dyke gunning down McDonald in the middle of a street on Oct. 20, 2014, as McDonald was walking away from police who had confronted him.

Van Dyke, 37, was released from jail on Monday after posting bond on a $1.5 million bail. Protests followed the charging and arrest of Van Dyke and the release of the video on Nov. 24.

The civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, voiced disappointment in Emanuel`s handling of the matter and called for an independent investigation led by a special prosecutor. He predicted protests would continue.

Asked why he was not calling for the mayor to resign, Jackson said, "That`s not the role for me to play. I`m not trying to incite."

In a protest on Monday, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Cornell William Brooks, was one of several protesters arrested, the organisation said. On Tuesday, Brooks accused the city of "generational police misconduct and police brutality."

Black Alderman Leslie Hairston, who had called for McCarthy`s resignation, told the news network: "You`ve got a whole system that has failed in the Chicago Police Department." She said she had no confidence in the mayor either.

Five-member panel

Emanuel said the new task force, which will be advised by former Massachusetts Governor and Chicago native Deval Patrick, will review the system of accountability, oversight and training in the police department.

The five-member panel will recommend reforms to improve independent oversight of police misconduct, ensure officers with repeated complaints are evaluated and establish a process for release of videos of police-involved incidents, Emanuel said.

Its recommendations will be presented to the mayor and city council by March 31, 2016.

Federal authorities have had an open criminal investigation into the shooting since April, and the US Department of Justice might still open its own investigation into the police force, as it did in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore following deaths involving officers and unarmed black men.

Despite Obama`s close relationship with the mayor, there is meant to be a firewall between the White House and investigators in the Justice Department when it comes to criminal probes.

In a Chicago courtroom, a 21-year-old University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) college student was released on Tuesday on $4,500 bond following his arrest for threatening to kill 16 white male students or staff to avenge McDonald`s killing.

Judge Susan Cox ordered Jabari Dean to remain in home detention, except for school, religious services and appointments related to the case. He was also ordered to submit to a mental health evaluation.