CHICAGO – Chicago’s police chief was ousted on Tuesday following days of unrest over video footage showing the shooting of a black teenager and the filing of murder charges against a white police officer in the young man’s death.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced during a news conference he had asked Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy to resign. The mayor also said he was creating a new police accountability task force.
The white officer, Jason Van Dyke, was charged a week ago with first-degree murder in the killing of Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times. The video of the killing was released on the same day.
High-profile killings of black men at the hands of mainly white law enforcement officials in U.S. cities have prompted demonstrations in the last two years, stoking a national debate on race relations and police tactics.
The mayor, a Democrat and the former chief of staff to U.S. President Barack Obama, said he was responsible for what happened in the case, the same as the police superintendent.
“I’m responsible. I don’t shirk that responsibility,” Emanuel said. He added that the creation of the task force was meant to rebuild trust in the police department of one of the country’s largest cities.
Emanuel said McCarthy had become an issue and “a distraction.” In an editorial on Tuesday, the Chicago Sun-Times had called for McCarthy’s resignation. The Chicago City Council black caucus and some protesters had also called for him to leave.
“I have a lot of loyalty to what he’s done and him, but I have more loyalty to the city of Chicago and its future,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel, McCarthy and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez have faced criticism for taking 13 months to release the video of the 2014 shooting and to charge Van Dyke.
Policing and street violence have emerged as leading issues for Emanuel since his election in April to a second term after being forced into a runoff.
The video shows Van Dyke gunning down McDonald, 17, in the middle of a street on Oct. 20, 2014, as McDonald was walking away from police who had confronted him.
Van Dyke, 37, was released from jail on Monday after posting bond on a $1.5 million bail.
Protests followed the charging and arrest of Van Dyke and the release of the video on Nov. 24.
In a protest on Monday, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Cornell William Brooks, was one of several protesters arrested, the organization said.
‘MISCONDUCT’ AND ‘BRUTALITY’
On Tuesday, Brooks accused the city of “generational police misconduct and police brutality” and called for more than a change in leadership.
“The question before us now is, ‘Will we have a police department that is accountable, that has transparency and operates with integrity and treats the citizens of Chicago with respect and dignity and understands profoundly that black lives matter, all lives matter. And certainly the life of a 17-year-old young man,'” Brooks told CNN.
Black Alderman Leslie Hairston, who had called for McCarthy’s resignation, told the news network: “You’ve got a whole system that has failed in the Chicago Police Department.” She said she had no confidence in the mayor either.
Emanuel said the new task force, which will be advised by former Massachusetts Governor and Chicago native Deval Patrick, will review the system of accountability, oversight and training in the police department.
The five-member panel will recommend reforms to improve independent oversight of police misconduct, ensure officers with repeated complaints are evaluated and establish a process for release of videos of police-involved incidents, Emanuel said. Its recommendations will be presented to the mayor and city council by March 31, 2016. (Additional reporting by David Greising in Chicago, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Ben Klayman in Detroit and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Howard Goller)