Ever since the political furor touched off by the court-ordered release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has talked about the need for reform done “with — not to” Chicago Police officers.
In spite of that collaborative approach, the Fraternal Order of Police believes Emanuel has “turned his back on the police.”
That’s why the union, embroiled in contract talks with the city, is urging the rank-and-file police officers it represents to show up in force at the May 23 City Council meeting to amplify that claim.
On Wednesday, the mayor tried — publicly, at least — to take what could potentially be a raucous protest in stride.
“The way I look at it is, you have people on either side of the issue criticizing and, in my view, we’re down the middle of the fairway,” the mayor said.
“We have the right things that are necessary for public safety needs so we have a pro-active police department with the right amount of oversight and accountability and transparency.”
The mayor’s comment about “people on either side of the issue criticizing” is an apparent reference to the 10-point blueprint for police reform released this week by a coalition of civil rights organizations that have sued the city for a role in shaping a consent decree that will culminate in federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department.
On the other side is the FOP, which has accused the mayor of “selling officers out in a federal consent decree that would give anti-police groups a voice in police oversight.”
The FOP’s bill of particulars against the mayor also includes the decision to put Officer Robert Rialmo on no-pay status, even before the Police Board decides whether Rialmo should be fired for the 2015 shooting of Quintonio LeGrier and neighbor/bystander Bettie Jones.
The union is also angry about a threat to fire Officers Jack O’Keefe and John Wrigley based on what the union calls “bogus claims they lied under oath because they made slight errors in their testimony that had no effect on the legitimacy of the arrest.”
The union is also angry about COPA’s decision to rule a 2012 shooting by Officer Brandon Ternand as unjustified. The FOP views the Ternand case as an example of what it calls “bogus, politically motivated investigations, arbitrarily punishing officers.”
Next week’s protest — with buses provided by the FOP dispatched from three different locations – underscores the political box Emanuel finds himself in with nine months to go before the mayoral election.
He’s caught between police reform advocates demanding a strong consent decree with rigid mandates and timetables and the need to coax police officers out of their defensive crouch to combat violent crime.
Attorneys for the city and for the families of Jones and LeGrier — who filed wrongful death lawsuits against Rialmo and the city in 2015 — were also in court Wednesday.
Last week, the city filed a motion to sever as a co-defendant from Rialmo with less than a month to go before the trial’s scheduled June 6 start date.
Had it been granted, the motion would have meant separate trials for the city and Rialmo. That was opposed by every other party in the lawsuit, including Rialmo; a judge denied the motion on Wednesday. City attorneys declined to comment on the denial after a brief hearing at the Daley Center.
The FOP protest wasn’t the only thing the mayor was trying his best to take in stride.
Same goes for the latest in a string of court rulings against him when it comes to the use of private emails to conduct city business.
“A year ago, we had a plan to make sure that it’s all out there and available. It’s an unprecedented piece of transparency. And given it’s in the courts, that’s where we’ll keep it,” the mayor said.
Contributing: Sam Charles