Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fired police Superintendent Garry McCarthy after four-and-a-half years on the job. This comes in the wake of the outcry over the dash-cam video that shows the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald at the hands of police officer Jason Van Dyke.
The pressure to remove McCarthy has grown more intense in recent days amid questions over how the city and police department handled the aftermath of the shooting.
Acknowledging that McCarthy was now a distraction in efforts to improve community relations with police, the mayor informed the top cop he was relieved of duties early this morning.
“Now is the time for fresh eyes and new leadership to confront the challenges the department, our community and our city are facing.”
This came after McCarthy had appeared on morning news programs insisting he wouldn’t resign. The mayor said he was grateful for McCarthy’s service to the city and said the police department had made gains under his watch. But the chorus calling for his ouster had reached a fever pitch: Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the City Council Black Caucus, the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board, protesters and activists all wanted him gone.
Today, Emanuel said it was time for a fresh set of eyes.
“Superintendent McCarthy and I began a discussion on Sunday about the direction of the department and the undeniable fact that the public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded,” Emanuel said. “This morning, I formally asked for his resignation. Garry’s record at the CPD is a strong one, one that he can be proud of. I’m grateful for his service to the city. He has both modernized the police department and brought real results to the city of Chicago. But now is the time for fresh eyes and new leadership to confront the challenges the department, our community and our city are facing.”
In the interim, Deputy Superintendent John Escalante takes over while the police board begins its search for a permanent replacement.
Today’s news was met with a mixed reaction from protesters and activists. They said that this was a necessary first step but more needs to be done.
“We’ve called on his resignation twice already, and I was happy the mayor responded,” said Alderman Roderick Sawyer (6th Ward), who’s the chairman of the City Council Black Caucus. “I think the community did a lot to pressure that. But now we need to move forward.”
“We made progress under McCarthy,” said Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward). “But you can’t change the police department overnight. The mayor was left with little choice.”
But others say the move is clearly not enough – that systemic change is needed. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan this evening is calling for a federal investigation into the practices at CPD, in a statement saying:
“The shocking death of Laquan McDonald is the latest tragedy in our city that highlights serious questions about the use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse. Trust in the Chicago Police Department is broken. Chicago cannot move ahead and rebuild trust between the police and the community without an outside, independent investigation into its police department to improve policing practices.”
And protesters old and young today said their furor won’t subside until Emanuel himself is gone.
“The problem doesn’t end with McCarthy,” said Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racial and Political Repression. “The mayor, the Independent Police Review Authority, they’re all guilty. And 47 members of City Council all signed off on hush money given to the McDonald family.”
Emanuel today is not giving any signal that he’ll resign, but says he accepts the blame.
“I’m responsible, I don’t shirk that,” Emanuel said. “I’ve taken steps prior today. I’ve taken steps in response to this.”
Watch Mayor Emanuel's full press conference below.
The mayor today also announced the creation of a police accountability task force. It will be overseen by Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts and a Chicago native who lived here until he was 10. The task force also consists of
- Sergio Acosta, a former federal prosecutor and partner at Hinshaw and Culbertson
- Joe Ferguson, the Chicago Inspector General
- Hiram Grau, former deputy superintendent of the CPD and former Illinois State Police Director
- Lori Lightfoot, President of the Chicago Police Board
- Randolph Stone, a law professor at University of Chicago and former Cook County public defender
It is tasked with looking into three areas:
The mayor holds that it has been longstanding policy not to release those videos if there is an investigation but acknowledges that that need is in conflict with the public’s desire for transparency.
Lightfoot says that despite the outcry over the McDonald aftermath, she believes the city’s response has been appropriate.
“IPRA was out on the scene within hours of the shooting. They began their preliminary investigation based upon the evidence they gathered including the video, they made their referral to the State’s Attorney’s office within weeks of the shooting, and they made their referral to the U.S. Attorney’s office,” Lightfoot said. “The parts that the city control worked well, expeditiously and in a timely fashion.”
Lighftoot will also direct the search for a new top cop. Next Wednesday the board will outline what their process will be, and they will eventually send recommendations to the mayor and city council.
Reaction to McCarthy's ouster
Political leaders and local organizations were quick to respond to the mayor's announcement. Below, several responses sent to "Chicago Tonight."
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle:
"I have long thought that former Supt. McCarthy’s policing strategies were wrong-headed and did nothing to instill trust and confidence – especially in communities of color. The mayor says former Supt. McCarthy’s resignation is not the end but a beginning to rebuilding trust and confidence in the Chicago Police Department. I agree that his resignation is just that – a beginning. I want to see what comes next."
State’s Attorney candidate Kim Foxx
“I agree with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to fire Superintendent McCarthy from his position in the Chicago Police Department.
"... It would be wrong, however, to assume that this move alone will satisfy those of us who believe an egregious miscarriage of justice has occurred here. There must still be a full investigation of anyone in the Chicago Police Department, the State’s Attorney Office and even City Hall to determine whether it was an inappropriate effort to conceal the truth, or simply mismanagement, that led to it taking 400 days to bring charges in this case."
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward) on behalf of the Progressive Caucus:
“The removal of Supt. McCarthy is a first step, but only one step, on the path to correcting the systemic problems which led to the death of Laquan McDonald and the ensuing cover-up. We do not celebrate today, for there is much to be done.”
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL):
“Now is the time to move forward and build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect between the Police Department and the community it serves.
“Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect us. Those who fail to live up to the high standards they have sworn to uphold must be held accountable.”
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward):
“I have long called for the firing of Supt. McCarthy, and am pleased to see that the Emanuel Administration has heard the public outcry. But many factors led to the tragedy inflicted upon Laquan McDonald. We must identify and remove those factors so that, no matter who is in charge, we will not return to this place again.”
The Chicago Teachers Union:
"We applaud Mayor Emanuel for finally having the moral courage to do what is just and right for all of Chicago. Now that Superintendent Garry McCarthy has been removed from power we join the call that is resonating throughout the nation to determine what role did the City of Chicago play in the cover-up of Laquan McDonald’s murder. The CTU is not anti-police. We are anti-police crime."
Shari Runner, Chicago Urban League Interim President and CEO
"The Chicago Urban League (CUL) is pleased with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision to ask for the resignation of Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent Garry McCarthy. CUL, along with many other civil rights organizations and activists have been advocating for McCarthy’s ouster and we believe that our combined efforts played a key role in Mayor Emanuel’s decision.”
"... While we are pleased with the creation of the task force on police accountability, we are still calling on the Department of Justice to launch a pattern or practice investigation into CPD. Unfortunately, due to the long history of systemic misconduct, we cannot trust the CPD to police itself.”
Find all "Chicago Tonight" stories on the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.