Mayor Rahm Emanuel ousts Chicago police superintendent

Police Supt. Garry McCarthy
Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy talked with officers in 2012, early in his tenure. He was fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Dec. 1. (Flickr User Viewminder/Creative Commons)

By Steven Porter

Chicago’s top cop lost his job Tuesday, one week after city officials released video of an officer shooting a teenage suspect 16 times, setting off demonstrations against police brutality and a flurry of national press coverage.

Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was asked to resign because he’s become “a distraction,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters, citing “the undeniable fact that the public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded.”

McCarthy’s ouster should not be used, however, to discredit the progress he’s made since his hiring in 2011, Emanuel said. “I have a lot of loyalty to what he’s done and him, but I have a bigger loyalty to the city of Chicago, its future and the strength of that future.”

Tuesday’s announcement came seven days after Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez filed a first-degree murder charge against Officer Jason Van Dyke for killing black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who was armed with a small knife and had PCP in his system when officers confronted him Oct. 20, 2014, in the Southwest Side Archer Heights neighborhood.

Saying she felt compelled “in the interest of public safety” not to wait on federal authorities to conclude their investigation, Alvarez announced the charge just a few hours before the city complied with a court order to release video of the slaying.

Wallace “Gator” Bradley, a former Gangster Disciple who founded United in Peace Inc., said McCarthy’s departure makes sense, in light of insensitivity toward Chicago’s black community.

“Personally, I’m glad the mayor asked him to step down,” Bradley said, noting he would have preferred for McCarthy to resign without being prompted.

Some demonstrators have called for Alvarez to resign as well, citing her failed prosecution of Officer Dante Servin, who was acquitted on an involuntary manslaughter charge when a judge ruled that Servin should have been charged with first-degree murder in the off-duty shooting death of Rekia Boyd, an unarmed black woman.

But since Alvarez is up for reelection next year, the decision of whether she stays in office should be left to the people, Bradley said.

Asked if Emanuel, too, should step down, Bradley said, “Being a mayor is a hard thing to do.”

Outside press conference
Willie “J.R.” Fleming, an activist with Anti-Eviction Campaign, shouts at Chicago police and security officers outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office during a press conference Tuesday, Dec. 1. Fleming and others were barred from entering. (Steven Porter/Medill)

Willie “J.R.” Fleming, an activist with Anti-Eviction Campaign, who was among several barred from entering Tuesday’s press conference, demanded Emanuel’s resignation.

“This is the only eviction I support: the mayor’s office,” Fleming said.

Emanuel, who didn’t answer questions about calls for him to resign, outlined his plan for a “top to bottom review” of the city’s law enforcement accountability protocols.

“How do we ensure that we are effectively policing the police?” he said, naming five members to a new task force that will research the city’s handling of excessive force complaints, recognize early warning signs for problem officers and balance efforts to improve transparency without compromising pending investigations.

The task force will be comprised of Sergio Acosta, a former federal prosecutor; Joe Ferguson, Chicago Inspector General; Hiram Grau, former Illinois State Police director and former Chicago Police Department deputy superintendent; Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Police Board president; and Randolph Stone, director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School and a former Cook County Public Defender.

Lightfoot and Stone are black, Acosta and Grau are Hispanic, and Ferguson is white, Emanuel said.

“These five leaders have extensive experience investigating police misconduct or representing victims of police misconduct,” Emanuel added.

Deval Patrick, a Chicago native and former Massachusetts governor who was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division as an assistant attorney general, will serve as the task force’s senior advisor.

“By reinvigorating our oversight, we will continue to take the necessary steps to build trust between the police and the residents of communities they serve,” Emanuel said.

Photo at top: Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy talked with officers in 2012, early in his tenure. He was asked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Dec. 1 to resign. (Viewminder/Creative Commons)