Updated 5:17 p.m., Aug. 18, 2016
CHICAGO (CBS) — Police Supt. Eddie Johnson has moved to fire seven police officers for lying about the circumstances of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014, in order to justify Officer Jason Van Dyke’s use of deadly force.
However, two other officers named in Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s report have already retired, and Johnson is sparing a 10th officer from termination.
According to a statement from Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, the inspector general recommended firing 10 officers for violating “Rule 14,” which requires officers to provide truthful statements in police reports.
Sources said Ferguson’s report recommended as many as five patrolmen, three detectives, and a sergeant be suspended or lose their badges for their role in the alleged cover-up; for providing accounts that differed from what dashboard camera video showed before Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times in October 2014.
Guglielmi said, after a review by the department and outside counsel, the department is recommending the Chicago Police Board fire seven of the officers named in the report. Two other officers have since retired, and Guglielmi said the department disagreed with the Inspector General Joseph Ferguson that a 10th officer be fired.
“With respect to the tenth officer, CPD respectfully disagrees with the OIG’s recommendation for separation and feels that there is insufficient evidence to prove those respective allegations,” Guglielmi said in an email.
The department did not name any of the officers. It’s asked seven of the officers to turn in their badges before the Chicago police board makes its final decision.
Chicago activist and priest Fr. Michael Pfleger says the police department moving to fire the officers signals a new beginning with the Chicago Police Department. ” It sends a strong and a needed message that the new superintendent is saying, ‘under my watch, I’m not going to tolerate it. I’m going to hold police accountable for wrong behavior.”
A local Chicago resident agreed. She said Johnson’s move is a step to help healing in the city. “People’s lives matter. Black lives matter. And I hope that we can come to a place where, you know, everyone is protected; the police and the people they’re supposed to serve,” said Melina Bless.
Johnson sent a memo to rank-and-file officers regarding the disciplinary action:
“While I know that this type of action can come with many questions and varying opinions, please know that these decisions were not made lightly. Each of these decisions was based on a methodical and substantive review of the facts by both internal and external counsel. Each officer will have their right to due process.
It is my belief that through these challenges we can take the lessons learned to become a better Department and in turn, give you additional resources to do your jobs effectively. As I have said before, with every decision that I make, I always keep in mind the tremendous sacrifice, bravery, and commitment of every officer.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel voiced support for Johnson’s decision in a statement Thursday afternoon:
“I appreciate Supt. Johnson’s thoughtful review of the Inspector General’s report, and I fully support his decisions. As the city takes these important steps to hold individuals accountable, we must also recommit ourselves to partnering together to rebuild trust between our police department and our residents. As Chicagoans who love this city, we must continue to work together to build that brighter tomorrow for everyone.”
The seven officers now facing possible termination have been stripped of their police powers, according to Guglielmi. A final decision on disciplinary action is up to the Chicago Police Board.
Earlier this week, Deputy Chief David McNaughton — who was in charge of the shooting scene the night of McDonald’s death, and found Van Dyke was justified in shooting the teenager — abruptly retired from the department, but police officials would not confirm if he was one of the officers named in the inspector general’s report.
Shortly after the shooting in 2014, police officials said McDonald lunged at officers with a knife, but video of the incident made public more than a year later showed McDonald was walking away from police when Van Dyke shot him.
A special prosecutor also has been appointed to investigate the alleged cover-up. Former judge Patricia Brown Holmes will look into whether any officers at the scene lied in police reports to justify the shooting, and if they should face criminal charges.
“What you see playing out across the country is the results of agencies that have lost credibility in their community, because of the allegiance to the officer rather than to the truth,” said David Bradford of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety.