CHICAGO (CBS) — Facing a steady stream of demands to fire Police Supt. Garry McCarthy after a white police officer was charged with murder for fatally shooting a black teenager, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday formed a “police accountability” task force.
In the week after the city released a video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, protesters, activists, several elected officials, and others have demanded McCarthy’s resignation or firing for his handling of the case.
Emanuel asked for McCarthy’s resignation on Tuesday.
The City Council’s Black Caucus, several Latino aldermen, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, several prominent ministers, and the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board all called for McCarthy to go.
Emanuel announced the creation of a new Task Force on Police Accountability to “review the system of accountability, oversight and training that is currently in place for Chicago’s police officers,” according to a statement from the mayor’s office.
“Actively engaging a range of community members–including victims’ rights representatives, law enforcement organizations, youth, religious and elected leaders–will be critically important to ensure the recommendations are based on input from all parts of the city,” the mayor’s office said.
The panel will present a report to the mayor and the City Council by the end of March next year.
“The shooting of Laquan McDonald requires more than just words,” Mayor Emanuel said in a written statement Tuesday morning. “It requires that we act; that we take more concrete steps to prevent such abuses in the future, secure the safety and the rights of all Chicagoans, and build stronger bonds of trust between our police and the communities they’re sworn to serve.”
The mayor’s office said the panel would be co-chaired by five “respected leaders in criminal justice,” including three former federal prosecutors, a former top city and state police official, and a former Cook County Public Defender.
• Sergio Acosta, a former federal prosecutor and current a partner at Chicago-based Hinshaw & Culbertson;
• Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson, also a federal prosecutor;
• Former Illinois State Police Director and former Chicago Deputy Police Supt. Hiram Grau;
• Chicago Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, a partner at Chicago-based Mayer Brown, a former federal prosecutor, and former head of the Police Department’s now-defunct Office of Professional Standards;
• University of Chicago law professor Randolph Stone, director of the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project Clinic, and a former Cook County Public Defender.
The announcement comes amid a series of protests sparked by the release of video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times last year on the Southwest Side.
McCarthy has faced a steady stream of criticism for not firing Van Dyke, or at least taking him off the department payroll sooner. Van Dyke was stripped of his police powers and placed on paid desk duty immediately after the shooting, but was not suspended without pay until he was charged with first-degree murder last week, more than a year after the shooting.
The superintendent has said his hands were tied.
“I couldn’t fire him. I couldn’t put him in a ‘no pay’ status. I couldn’t discipline him. That’s the law,” he says. “It was not the Chicago Police Department investigating this incident.”
Asked if he would have immediately fired Van Dyke if he had the authority to do so, McCarthy hedged.
“I can’t make that call, because it wasn’t something that was in my authority,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said “of course” he is concerned about the security of his job, with more and more people calling for him to resign or be fired, but he has repeatedly said the mayor has given him his full support.
“You don’t take these jobs without realizing there’s going to be enormous pressure. The political landscape in this city is a little bit different than a lot of places; and, quite frankly, I’ve been dealing with it since I came through the door,” he said.
The superintendent claimed police-involved shootings have dropped dramatically in his four-plus years on the job, because of changes he made to the department’s policy on use of deadly force.
Some have even called for Emanuel himself to resign, in part because he fought for a year to keep the video of the McDonald shooting out of the public eye, arguing he didn’t want to interfere with the state and federal investigations of the shooting. It wasn’t until a Cook County judge ordered the city to release the video that Emanuel gave up his efforts to keep the video under wraps.