Chicago's top cop forced to resign, new accountability task force created following protests

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy (L) stands with Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel (C) during a recruitment graduation ceremony in Chicago, Illinois © Jim Young
In the wake of the arrest of a Chicago, Illinois cop for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made the embattled police superintendent go and created a police accountability task force.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Emanuel praised McCarthy’s handling of both the anti-police brutality protests following the release of a video last Tuesday showing the shooting of McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014 and an arrest in the Tyshawn Lee case on Friday, but noted the two men began discussing “the direction of the department and the undeniable fact that the public trust in the leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded,” the mayor said.

“This morning, I formally asked for his resignation,” Emanuel added.

Though McCarthy’s record “is a strong one, and one he can be proud of,” Emanuel said at a press conference, “now is a time for fresh eyes and new leadership.”

"To build the trust and confidence of the public and, at this point, in this juncture for the city, given what we're working on, he had become an issue rather than dealing with the issue and a distraction," Emanuel said.

“I’m grateful for his service to the city,” the mayor added, noting that McCarthy, 56, had modernized the department and brought results in the 4.5 years since Emanuel hand-picked McCarthy to serve as superintendent.

The City Council Black Caucus, several Latino aldermen, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the editorial boards of the Sun-Times and Washington Post all called for McCarthy to be fired or to resign.

The black caucus began calling for McCarthy's ouster during budget meetings in September, and repeated that demand again last week, the Chicago Tribune reported.

First Deputy Superintendent John Escalante will step in as Chicago’s top cop for the time being, Emanuel said. Escalante promoted to second-in-command in October. He had previously served as a district commander.

Emanuel did not mention Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who has also been under fire for her handling of the McDonald case. Protesters have also called for her firing. He also refused to answer questions about the possibility of his own resignation, but admitted, “I’m responsible. I don’t shirk that responsibility.”

“Everyone has a role to play, and I’m just as responsible and accountable as everyone else in working towards that solution,” the mayor said. “I do not take that responsibility lightly, and will work to ensure that every day we ensure we realize a strong Chicago we all want and the public deserves.”

Along with ousting McCarthy, Emanuel also announced a police accountability task force that "will review the system of accountability, oversight and training that is currently in place for Chicago's police officers," the mayor’s administration said in a brief news release Monday night.

The five-member panel includes two African-Americans: Chicago Police Board president Lori Lightfoot, a former prosecutor, and Randolph Stone, director of the University of Chicago’s Criminal & Juvenile Justice Project Clinic. It also includes two Hispanics ‒ Hiram Grau, the former director of the Illinois State Police, and Sergio Acosta, an experienced criminal litigator and investigator ‒ and one Caucasian, City of Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson. Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, a Chicago native, will serve as a senior adviser on the task force.

“These five leaders have extensive experience investigating police misconduct or representing victims of police misconduct,” Emanuel said. “They will actively engage community leaders, victims’ rights, law enforcement, youth, religious and elected leaders to ensure the recommendations are based on the input from all parts of the city and all perspectives as it relates to criminal justice and the police department and public safety.”

Top (L to R): Deval Patrick, Lori Lightfoot, Randolph Stone. Bottom (L to R):  Hiram Grau, Sergio Acosta, Joe Ferguson.

The task force will also conduct the search to replace McCarthy as superintendent of the Chicago PD.

The mayor’s firing of the police superintendent and creation of the accountability panel comes two days after Emanuel and McCarthy announced the expansion of the body-worn camera program for the city’s law enforcement officers.

“This is not the end of the problem, but is the beginning of the solution to the problem. There are systematic challenges that will require sustained reforms,” Emanuel said. “It is a work in progress as we continue to build the confidence and the trust by the public in our police force.”