Chicago‘s top cop and his boss engaged in a good cop-bad cop routine last week.
First, Mayor Rahm Emanuel piously condemned the white police officer caught on videotape saying, “Mike Brown deserved it.” The on-duty officer also told a man to move from his predominantly black neighborhood if he thought police are engaging in profiling.
After the Chicago Sun-Times reported on the videotaped remarks, the mayor on Tuesday said the officer’s comments “do not reflect who we are as a city and don’t reflect what we are trying to do in building one city, one future.”
But his handpicked police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, let the cop off with a slap on the wrist and made excuses for his foolish comments.
In an interview with the WLS-AM Radio program “Connected to Chicago,” McCarthy seemed far more interested in deploring the black man who prompted and recorded the cop’s racially charged comments.
The worst he would say about his underling was he made “not appropriate” statements and now felt bad for failing to “maintain his composure and his professionalism.”
McCarthy’s harshest words were for the man who had videotaped the officer, saying he was “taunting and abusing” cops trying to do their jobs.
“Nobody is holding the individual accountable who was taunting the officer while he was doing his job and that’s a little bit troubling, because it has to be fair,” the superintendent said. “Is anybody taking a look at the individual who made inflammatory comments to the officer like, ‘I don’t know if you’re gonna shoot me. You’re gonna shoot me just like Michael Brown’?”
It’s disturbing that McCarthy seems fixated instead on the whistleblower here. Who cares who he is or what he said?
He’s not the one in the incident who was given a badge and a gun to serve at McCarthy’s orders. He’s not the one who’s paid a salary, excellent benefits and a pension at the expense of this city’s taxpayers.
As Emanuel said of the officer in the video, “You represent the city of Chicago and all of the people that pay your salary.”
There was a simple way for the officer to hold the man accountable if — as McCarthy suggested — he got in the way of cops who were “trying to protect the public and stop people from getting murdered.” He could have cuffed him if he really was getting in the way of vital police activity.
The 41-second video makes clear the officer was in no such haste. Standing in the middle of a street, the officer casually allowed himself to be baited into sharing his opinions on the case of Brown, the black teenager whose shooting death last year by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., sparked riots.
Since I first wrote about the video a couple weeks ago, many anonymous correspondents claiming to be current or former cops have written to say they also think Brown did deserve it and the white Chicago officer was merely exercising his right to free speech.
I don’t care to rehash the Brown case here. But the officer did not have the freedom to say whatever he wanted.
Rule 2 of the Chicago Police Department’s regulations forbid “any action or conduct which impedes the department’s efforts to achieve its policy and goals or brings discredit upon the department.”
McCarthy concluded it was enough to take a week of vacation from the officer in the video and order him to undergo some retraining.
By then, Emanuel had taken his chance to rail against discrimination in general — to “be clear as mayor what our values are.”
The final outcome of the case suggests a different set of values prevails at Chicago Police headquarters.