Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday is set to talk about his city’s embattled police department, which has been rocked by unrest over officer-involved shootings that led to its superintendent’s ouster and calls for Emanuel to step down.
The mayor called for a special City Council meeting starting at 9 a.m. (10 a.m. ET) Wednesday to deliver “a message … regarding the Chicago Police Department,” according to a letter dated Monday to City Clerk Susana Mendoza. No more details were given on what Emanuel might say.
He’ll have a lot of news to work with — little of it good.
This includes the uproar surrounding the death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager killed by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke the night of October 20, 2014. 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.
That 13-month gap from the time of 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.
The furor grew even more after the city released reports over the weekend in which accounts offered by police on the scene appeared to contradict what the graphic video footage shows.
And Laquan McDonald’s death isn’t the only one that’s dogged Chicago city and police officials.
So, too, has the case of Ronald Johnson, who was killed by police eight days before McDonald. It wasn’t until Monday that reporters first saw video of that incident, with Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez saying the officer who killed Johnson won’t face charges.
There’s also 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 the shooting justified. But Lorenzo Davis, that agency’s original supervising investigator on the case, didn’t agree.
Davis says he was fired in July when he refused to change his report.
Emanuel and others have taken pains to say that most Chicago police officers, day in and day out, do an excellent job. And it’s a very difficult one, given the dangers in parts of the city.
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 higher populations.
At the same time, the mayor said Monday that he welcomes a U.S. Justice Department investigation into Chicago police.
The federal “pattern-and-practice” probe, as it’s called, will look into whether city officers have made a habit of violating the law or the U.S. Constitution while on the beat, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“We accept it, and we need it,” Emanuel said of the federal investigation. “… None of the measures we have taken have ever measured up to the seriousness, the scope, the scale of the challenge in front of us as a city.”