Mayor’s final budget to earmark $25.7M for police reform and federal monitor

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Friday his final city budget will earmark $25.7 million for police reform, including the first-year cost of a federal monitoring team that is likely to remain in place for “north of five years and less than 10 years.”

In a wide-ranging interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel said that $25.7 million tab is certain to be the annual floor for Chicago taxpayers for as long as it takes to implement a consent decree negotiated with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

“It’s parallel as the mayor that actually saw the conclusion of the Shakman decree reforming our hiring practice, professionalizing it, ripping politics out of it,” he said.

“When you look at Shakman, the reason the judge let us out is not just the rules, but the culture had changed. My goal here is to get the rules in place and ingrained in a way that the culture of the police department is also changed for the better.”

Emanuel said the good thing about federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department is that the city has been working on it, ever since the U.S. Justice Department issued its scathing report triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.

“We go in front of a judge with about 18-to-19 months of serious changes already happening — on de-escalation, on more regular training, on separation of mental health kind of calls from criminal calls. There’s use of force. There’s the body cameras and the Tasers. There’s transparency around videos. There’s COPA reform,” he said.

“It’s not like we got a report and we were waiting for a federal judge. We were busy at work.”

But the mayor also knows that it took Chicago a decade to get out from under the costly constraints of the Shakman decree and a federal hiring monitor after a hiring scandal that cost taxpayers $22.9 million.

That’s apparently why, when pressed to predict how long this federal monitoring team would be in place, the mayor said, “It’s north of five years and less than 10 years.”

Emanuel’s second term was defined by his decision to wait until one week after the April 7, 2015, mayoral runoff election to authorize a $5 million settlement to the McDonald family — before a lawsuit was filed.

The infamous shooting video was released on Nov. 24, 2015, only after a judge ordered it. That same day, Jason Van Dyke, the white officer on the video, was charged with the first-degree murder of the black teenager.

Van Dyke was convicted last week of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery, one for each shot he fired.

On Friday, Emanuel accepted responsibility for his role in withholding the video.

“We had a policy as a city — like every other city and every other mayor — that you never let the video out because you didn’t want to taint any of the recollections of the witnesses,” he said.

“There was no politics that played a role here . . . We had a process in place and that process went forward, like it had in every other instance. But it didn’t work in this situation.”

But he defiantly argued that “other institutions,” including the news media, also failed in their responsibility to question the status quo.

“I’m the big dog. I get it. [But] go back at that press conference. All of the questions were about [Jon] Burge, except for two, which were about the amount of money and could we afford it. Not about what happened,” the mayor said.

“The city, the systems were all shown to be asleep. We had gotten into a pattern over 30-to-40 years of just following and not asking. I take responsibility. I’m the mayor. I don’t think I’ve shirked that responsibility . . . But all of us have a role. All of us were asleep at the switch.”

Emanuel has spent years trying desperately to coax police officers out of a defensive crouch he once characterized as a “fetal position.”

On Friday, the mayor was asked whether he’s concerned that, at least some police officers will lay back or even retire because they are afraid the mayor won’t have their back.

“The short answer is no. But it’s something I work on with the superintendent . . . and the leadership every day. The good news is, we have a leadership that the rank-and-file trust. We have a leadership that’s very much in touch,” Emanuel said.

He added, “A lot of the officers that make up patrol are . . . recent graduates. Recent being the last three or four years. So, they’re part of something that’s already new anyway. They don’t know the past.”

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