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Cover-up of a Police Murder Requires Resignation of Chicago Mayor Emanuel

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made a bold yet belated move when he fired his embattled police superintendent in the wake of a national uproar surrounding the release of a chilling video that captured the police killing of a teen–a ward of the city of Chicago.

Included in that uproar is anger over mounting evidence of a cover-up connected to the brutal and unjustified shooting graphically displayed on that video. Political and civic leaders in Chicago had demanded the removal of Chicago top cop Garry McCarthy months before Emanuel’s uproar-triggered ouster.

If Mayor Emanuel is really serious about his stated desire to rebuild “public trust” he needs to do two other things and do those two things quickly.

The first thing Emanuel needs to do is issue a strong public rebuke of Chicago’s top prosecutor, Anita Alvarez.

This prosecutor dragged her feet for over a year on indicting the policeman shown in that video firing 16-shots in fhs space of 15 seconds into Laquan McDonald. That police video clearly shows the 17-year-old McDonald walking away from police, not lurching towards officers, as Chicago’s Police Department and its police union had maintained falsely since McDonald’s fatal shooting in October 2014, while the video remained sealed from view.

Alvarez did not charge Officer Jason Van Dyke with murder until after the release of the police video that captured McDonald’s wrongful death. Mayor Emanuel had fought against release of that video for over a year, claiming it would undermine ongoing investigations into McDonald’s death –- a stance Alvarez embraced as her explanation for not filing charges against Van Dyke earlier, though of course as a prosecutor she always had full access to the tape.

Hispanic leaders in Chicago –- political and civic –- are among those calling for the resignation of Alvarez, the first Hispanic to hold that post in Chicago.

The second thing Emanuel needs to do is resign. The mounting evidence of a multi-layer cover-up surrounding the killing of McDonald includes actions by Emanuel himself.

Chicago’s mayor contends he did not view the McDonald murder video until hours before its release -– a release ordered by a Chicago judge over Emanuel’s objection. Yet, months ago Emanuel approved a $5-million payout to McDonald’s estranged family. The mayor authorized that payout before that family had even filed a lawsuit over the shooting.

If Emanuel approved that payout without first viewing the video that contradicted the official “justified shooting” posture of his Police Department then he was irresponsible with the purse strings of aa cash-strapped city.

If on the other hand Emanuel was aware of the contents of that video and approved the payout that occurred at the time he was locked in a tough struggle to beat back a surprisingly strong electoral challenge to unseat him, then that payout was arguably silencing money aimed at preventing an inevitable public uproar had the true details of McDonald’s death come out during the campaign. Withholding that video helped Emanuel eke out a re-election win.

Emanuel’s actions/inactions in the McDonald matter, eiher through his irresponsible mismanaging of Chicago’s money or through his mendacious efforts to maintain his post as mayor, have displayed convincing evidence that this man who has been a congressman, Chicago’s Mayor and former Chief of Staff to President Obama, is unfit to hold public office.

Shortly before Emanuel sacked top cop McCarthy from his $260,000 salaried post, the mayor announced formation of a task force to review all aspects of the Chicago Police Department –- a police force with a decades-long history of brutality and corruption.

If the announced task force review is not simply another ploy to provide political cover for Emanuel, why didn’t he set up a task force earlier this year in the wake of news reports that Chicago had paid out $521-million between 2004-2014 due to police misconduct that has ranged from false arrests to excessive force? Misconduct by Chicago’s police cost $50-million in 2014 –- a sum that news reports stated totaled more than the combined budgets of Chicago’s mayor office, city treasurer office, city council and its department of human services.

Why indeed didn’t Emanuel establish a review in September 2013, when he made an unprecedented apology for a two-decades long reign of torture and terror by a secret unit inside the CPD that cost the city over $85-million in payouts to victims — some of whom spent years on death row falsely as a result of torture-induced testimony?

Payouts for police misconduct have real-time consequences for cash-strapped Chicago. In 2012 Mayor Emanuel cited lack of funds as the justification for his closure of six mental health clinics in low-income areas. In 2013 Emanuel cited lack of funds as justification for his closure of 4 public schools in low-income areas. The closures of those clinics and schools have had adverse impacts on the communities where they were located. Some in Chicago track increases in crime to the closures of the mental health clinics.

The very Mayor Emanuel who cuts services for the neediest citizens of his city is the same mayor who presides over the payments of multi-million-dollar settlements in police misconduct cases where the offending police get to keep their jobs. Officer Van Dyke, who is now facing murder charges for killing McDonald, has had over a dozen brutality complaints lodged against him, includeding one that led to a $350,000 payout to a victim as well as the latest $5-million payout to McDonald’s family.

The cost of payouts in police misconduct cases does not include the tens of millions of dollars Chicago has paid to private law firms to fight those police abuse cases ($63-million from 2002-2012 according to news reports). And that payout figure does not include the continued salaries of the police officers cited in lawsuits for brutality who are still kept on the CPD payroll and who will still receive pensions when they leave the job.

The Chicago police killing of Laquan McDonald again dramatizes the duplicity and complicity surrounding unjustified police brutality and killings that extend from patrol officers to the highest reaches of government.

Chicago has an epidemic of civilians murdering each other and a low rate of police solving those murders. Now ousted Chicago top cop McCarthy once declared that the biggest reason for why so few of Chicago’s murders are solved is the “no-snitch” code of silence among residents in too many communities.

Top cops like McCarthy rarely if ever address the Code of Silence operative in police forces across America. That ubiquitous police “snitch code”e is on display in the McDonald shooting case. Over six officers at the scene of McDonald’s shooting followed the Code of Silence when they filed reports falsely stating that McDonald had lunged at Van Dyke, thus certifying McDonald’s wrongful death as justified. They followed the same police “omerta” code too when they reportedly chased eye-witnesses from the scene after the shooting, instead of taking down their names as potential witnesses, as they should have done, and as they would have done had the shooter not been a brother cop.

Those officers that filed false reports supporting Van Dyke’s killing violated Illinois law on accomplice liability. According to that law, knowingly assisting or helping someone commit a crime –- before, during or after the crime –- is an offense punishable with imprisonment. Of course, someone has to bring a prosecution for that to happen.

But Chicago’s top prosecutor Alvarez has yet to arrest any of those law-breaking law enforcers who aided and abetted Van Dyke’s [alleged] crime. This inaction by Alvarez evidences duplicity and a double standard of justice: one standard for errant cops another standard for errant civilians.

Chicago is definitely in need of “regime change,” beginning with the removal of Mayor Emanuel and prosecutor Alvarez.

It is pathetic that the same politicians, presidential candidates, pundits and preachers who so loudly and easily demand “regime change” in places like Syria or Libya or Iraq remain silent on crimes against humanity in Chicago.

More articles by:

Linn Washington, Jr. is a founder of This Can’t Be Happening and a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He lives in Philadelphia.

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