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Protesters halt traffic in Chicago

December 11, 2015

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Chicago mayor ‘sorry’ over police shooting

At least dozens of protesters broke through police lines Wednesday, December 9, 2015, after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that his city needs “a painful and honest reckoning into what went wrong” surrounding the death of Laquan McDonald.
During a special City Council meeting he’d convened, Emanuel said that he was sorry about the circumstances surrounding the black teenager’s killing — including the fact it took 13 months before police dashboard camera video of his shooting became public and the officer who killed him was charged.
“I own it,” the mayor said. “I take responsibility for what happened, because it happened on my watch.
“And if we’re going to fix it, I want you to understand that it’s my responsibility.”
His speech Wednesday, however, was not just about what happened the night of October 20, 2014, when Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke killed McDonald. The city resisted releasing dashcam video showing the shooting until late last month, then did so the same day Van Dyke was charged with murder.
Emanuel also talked more broadly about a “lack of mutual respect” between some Chicagoans and police. Some believe officers treat them differently and make unfounded assumptions because of how they look or where they live, according to the mayor, a perception that feeds their anger and despair.
So, too, does an impression that police put protecting their own ahead of protecting all citizens — a sentiment borne out by what Emanuel called a “code of silence,” and illustrated by how other police officers’ accounts of McDonald’s death were at odds with what dashcam video showed.
Putting it succinctly, the mayor said, “We have a trust problem.”
The mayor had a lot of recent history to work with ahead of Wednesday’s speech — little of it good.
The most high-profile case relates to McDonald. The 13-month gap from the incident until the charge and video release was too long for some, who accused police and Emanuel of a cover-up.
It contributed to Garry McCarthy losing his job as Chicago’s police superintendent and spurred calls for Emanuel himself to resign. And the furors grew even more when the public learned about other officers’ accounts.
There’s also Ronald Johnson, killed by police eight days before McDonald. It wasn’t until Monday that reporters first saw video of his death, with Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez saying the officer who killed Johnson won’t face charges.
And there has been renewed focus of late on 17-year-old Cedrick LaMont Chatman, whose 2013 death near a bus stop was captured by four video cameras.
The Chicago agency that investigates all police-involved shootings, the Independent Police Review Authority, deemed that shooting justified. But Lorenzo Davis, IPRA’s original supervising investigator on the case, didn’t agree. Davis says he was fired in July when he refused to change his report.
On Wednesday, Emanuel said that IPRA will take a fresh look at the circumstances surrounding both Johnson’s and Chatman’s final moments. And he was even more definitive and emphatic talking about McDonald’s death, which he called “totally avoidable.”
But fixing this isn’t simply a matter of prosecuting Van Dyke or giving McDonald’s family money (the Chicago City Council approved a $5 million settlement in April). The mayor outlined steps that have been taken so far or are in the works, like police’s increased use of body cameras, reshaping the leadership and approach of IPRA, and a renewed focus on community policing.
More than anything, according to Emanuel, there needs to be a culture change in how police see and deal with citizens, and vice versa.
“It is one thing to train officers on fighting crime,” he said. “It is a whole other thing to build friendships and relationships, which are integral to fighting crime.”
As he’s done before, Emanuel noted Wednesday that most Chicago police officers, day in and day out, do a good job. And it’s a very difficult one, given the dangers in parts of the city — a fact that not all citizens grasp, according to the mayor.
Chicago began being called the murder capital of the United States back in 2012, after it registered 503 homicides, more than any other city. It didn’t get much better, with the FBI’s 2014 statistics showing 411 killings — more than the 333 in New York and 260 in Los Angeles, two cities with larger populations.

Emanuel lamented Wednesday that young people join gangs “in search of self-worth” and because they don’t see hope for a better life, saying, “We as a city must and can do better.”