Chicago seeks change after shooting video is released

CHICAGO — A day after city officials released a video of a white police officer shooting a black teenager 16 times, some of the city’s most prominent black leaders called Wednesday for investigations into the Chicago Police Department and its handling of the shooting. They expressed anger and dismay toward the department’s leadership, and some demanded the resignation of the police superintendent.
The calls from the leaders — civic, political, and religious — came despite the filing of murder charges against the officer, Jason Van Dyke, in the death of the teenager, Laquan McDonald. The calls took different forms and came during separate announcements, but all voiced frustration and demanded sweeping changes in the department, which many black residents had viewed with suspicion well before the release Tuesday of the video showing the 2014 shooting of McDonald.

The Chicago Urban League called on the Justice Department to conduct a broad investigation into the police department, similar to the agency’s investigation of the police department in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, last year. Several local branches of the NAACP called for changes to a police review board, which they said was too cozy with the department and urged a federal investigation into that board.

Community activists and members of the black caucus of the Chicago City Council called on Garry F. McCarthy, the police superintendent, to resign, saying they had lost confidence in his ability to repair frayed relations in black neighborhoods.

And the Rev. Jesse Jackson, two members of Congress, and several religious and community leaders called for widespread protests and sweeping change to the police department. Many of them also said McCarthy should be replaced.

The demands for change reflect longstanding tensions here, some of the leaders said. By some estimates, the city has paid more than $500 million in settlements and other costs over the last decade tied to police misconduct. This year, it agreed to reparations for black residents who said a group of officers had abused and tortured them in the 1970s and ’80s. And a recent finding by the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit journalism organization, suggested that a vast majority of citizen complaints against police officers did not lead to disciplinary action.

“This situation is not isolated,” Jedidiah Brown, founder of the Chicago-based Young Leaders Alliance, said of the killing of McDonald, who prosecutors say was shot repeatedly even after he had fallen to the ground and appeared to be incapacitated. “This is our reality.”

In an interview, McCarthy said Wednesday that his department was wrestling with many of the challenges faced by police around the nation, especially regarding racial issues. Yet he said the police had improved in his more than four-year tenure here, noting that police shootings had declined, that community relations had become an emphasis of training in the department, and that the city’s murder total last year was the lowest in decades.

Of the calls for his removal, McCarthy said he intended to stay on the job.

“Show me a police department in the country that the community stands up and says, ‘We have a great, trusting relationship with them,’” McCarthy said. “Does it predate me? It predates all of us. This goes back more than 300 years in the experience of the African Americans in this country.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has expressed support for McCarthy.

As demonstrators gathered downtown Wednesday for a second evening of protests, some said they saw the murder charges filed against Van Dyke as a last-minute effort to lower the chances of unrest. Some raised pointed questions about the details of the investigation and about the court system.

“The criminal justice system is not predictable when it comes to police officers and police officers who kill young black people,” said Charlene A. Carruthers, national director of the Black Youth Project 100, a Chicago-based group.

Story By Monica Davey and Mitch Smith, New York Daily Times

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