McCarthy: Release of McDonald video could have compromised case

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Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy speaks to the City Club of Chicago. | Santiago Covarrubias/Sun-Times

Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy on Monday painted a grim picture of policing that verged on dystopian.

“The world is upside down right now,” he said. “The police are being investigated and not criminals.”

“Criminals are being given free reign and we investigate the police,” he said while addressing the City Club of Chicago.

“Why would you stop anyone if you’re a police officer today in Chicago?” McCarthy asked the audience.

“Why would you stop anyone when the Department of Justice is here investigating patterns and practices of what we do and looking for civil rights violations?” he asked, referring to a pending federal probe that was launched after the release of the Laquan McDonald video.

“If I was asked, and I was not, I would have recommended not releasing the Laquan McDonald video, for no other reason than we don’t release evidence in a criminal investigation,” he said.

“We don’t say ‘This is what we’ve got’ while the case is still pending.”

McCarthy said he did not know if Emanuel had seen the video before it was released. Critics speculate that Emanuel sat on the video for more than a year to avoid a scandal during election season.

“I spoke to him the next day. I told him that we had a shooting yesterday, it’s going to be a problem, and the officer is stripped [of his badge], which was the only action I could take at that point, and the officer is going to have to answer for his actions,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy said he believed the decision to release the video was out Emanuel’s hands because that multiple law enforcement agencies had pending investigations into the case.

Emanuel later enacted a new policy ensuring the quick release of police shooting videos.

RELATED: Brown: McCarthy’s tough talk invites hard look at ambitions

McCarthy characterized the measure and similar legislation enacted in other cities as “knee jerk policy changes” that compromise key pieces of evidence in law enforcement probes.

“Just because people want it, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” he said.

“If the officer in the McDonald shooting is not convicted, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was because of the steps that were taken policy wise,” he said.

“Releasing videos is not going to build trust,” McCarthy said. “And by the way, if the video comes out today or the video comes out two years from now and the case is over, does it make much of a difference? But if you’re compromising a criminal investigation, I think it makes a really, really, really big difference. This is empowering criminals.”

“Every action has a reaction. And a less effective police department and a more empowered criminal is bringing the results that we’re getting here in Chicago,” McCarthy said, referring to a spike in violent crime. “If we keep blaming police for all of societies ills, in five years we’re going to still be having the same exact conversation.”

The root of the issue “is a social-economic problem that transcends generations,” he said.

“Simply stated, the police are not the problem in this country, the criminals are,” he said while addressing the City Club and in remarks offered to reporters after the event.

“And I don’t think anybody has the audacity to say that today, because, politically speaking, you’re either on the bus or under it,” said McCarthy, who, as a private security consultant, is now free to say things that otherwise might have caused a firestorm in his old gig.

“The greatest danger in my mind to American society today is the legitimizing of the non-compliance of the law. Compliance is a bedrock principal of the United States constitution,” he said.

“You can’t pick up a gun and walk down the street and shoot people,” McCarthy said, pointing to police shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge as well as rowdy protesters who flooded Michigan Avenue several times this year to call for police accountability.

“We’re reaching a state of lawlessness in this country,” he said.

“The police are not the problem in America, it’s just not the case. Now, we make mistakes, absolutely we do, and where appropriate, prosecute and discipline. That’s what should happen, I agree with that wholeheartedly, 1,000 percent,” he said.

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