Outraged by the “execution” video of a white police officer firing 16 shots into the body of a black teenager, the City Council’s Black Caucus on Wednesday renewed its call for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to fire Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
“There is no excuse for this type of behavior. This has gone on and on and on and on and enough is enough,” said Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), former chairman of the Black Caucus.
“The official position of this Black Caucus is that we have called for the resignation or the termination of the superintendent of police McCarthy and [at] the next City Council [meeting], I personally will introduce a resolution calling for a vote of no confidence and again pushing the issue with respect to that termination.”
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the Black Caucus, acknowledged that Emanuel has the “unilateral right to retain McCarthy” and vowed to do just that after the Black Caucus first called for the superintendent’s ouster last month.
It came after another violent weekend on the streets of Chicago and after McCarthy infuriated the Black Caucus by replacing retiring First Deputy Superintendent Al Wysinger, who is African-American, with John Escalante, who is Hispanic.
“He knows our position. Our position is very clear. We want McCarthy gone. His time has come. He’s run his course. We need to have new leadership at the top. I believe that,” Sawyer said.
Sawyer said it’s possible aldermen could force the issue on the City Council floor. But, he said, “I don’t know if we have a majority as it stands right now . . . That’s something worth looking at if we have the count. I’ve never known it to be done. I would be willing to entertain that. But I think we need a three-fourths vote and I don’t think we have” it.
The mayor’s office responded to the renewed demand for McCarthy’s ouster by saying Emanuel “fully supports” his handpicked police superintendent.
“This incident is a tragedy and it’s absolutely unacceptable, but Jason Van Dyke’s actions are not representative of Superintendent McCarthy’s values, or of the hard-working men and women of the Chicago Police Department,” the mayor’s office said in an emailed statement.
Emanuel has been under fire for keeping the incendiary video under wraps until after the April 7 mayoral runoff and waiting until one week after the election to settle the case for $5 million even before the McDonald family had filed a lawsuit.
The mayor and McCarthy have also been criticized for allowing Police Officer Jason Van Dyke to be stripped of his police powers but remain on the city payroll for 13 months. Van Dyke’s city paycheck was taken away, only after State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez charged him with first-degree murder on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, African-American aldermen who voted to approve a $5 million settlement denounced as “hush-money” ran for political cover. They claimed they had been “misled” before signing off on the settlement without seeing the dashboard camera video.
“The family was willing to settle at $5 million. Our attorney was telling us that, if we pursued this and went to trial, that number could be much higher. It was in the best interest of the people we are stewards of to settle that matter for the amount that was settled,” Brookins said.
“That doesn’t excuse not releasing the tape as soon as possible. We did not see that tape. Did not know what it was going to show. Were told there was an active investigation. And we were led to believe there was something fuzzy or something questionable that could be interpreted a different way than it was . . . We were misled. We were misled in terms of whether or not this particular tape showed some grey area where it needed to be investigated for all this period of time. It appears to everybody who has seen this tape . . . that it did not and should not have taken a full year to determine what happened when all of the facts were known and it was a clear video to show it.”
Chicago has somehow managed to avoid the violent demonstrations that have followed the death of African-American suspects at the hands of police in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore and New York City.
Fear and anticipation that could change now that the McDonald video has been played and replayed — not only in Chicago, but around the world — is what drew a wall of cameras to Wednesday’s City Hall news conference even though early demonstrations have been peaceful.
The Black Caucus responded to all of the attention with a political message that was as clear as mud.
Some members argued that the tape should have been released before the election and Emanuel wears the jacket for withholding it. Others, including Sawyer, said they understand why the mayor fought release of the tape while the criminal investigation was still pending.
Nobody was willing to go so far as to say that Emanuel would not have survived Chicago’s first-ever mayoral runoff if the video had been released before April 7.
Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) would take only a veiled shot at the mayor: “I heard a lot of talk about accountability, accountability, accountability. Everybody wanted to be accountable. They’ve got to be accountable.”
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) also talked in generalities about protecting “our young people” by amending the police contract to include “tougher policies and sanctions against police officers who do egregious or illegal acts.”
Ald. Will Burns (4th), an Emanuel ally, did not participate in the October call for McCarthy’s ouster. But he apparently considered the McDonald shooting video so outrageous, he felt compelled to attend Wednesday news conference — even though he remained silent.