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Rahm Decries Police 'Code Of Silence' Ahead Of Morning Speech To City Council

By aaroncynic in News on Dec 9, 2015 2:53PM

Photo by Brooke Collins/City of Chicago

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he has absolutely no plans to resign his post, that the “culture” of the police force has to change, and that the delay in releasing the video of Laquan McDonald’s death had nothing to do with the election ahead of a speech he plans to make to City Council Wednesday morning.

In a 30 minute interview with Paris Schutz Tuesday evening on Chicago Tonight, Emanuel attempted to address at least some of the questions about the beleaguered Chicago Police Department that have dogged him for weeks. In what was reminiscent of the time he donned a fuzzy sweater and told Chicagoans he understood and “owned” that he could “rub people the wrong way,” Emanuel put on his best accountability face for the sit-down.

“Clearly, the system did not work in this situation,” said Emanuel. “I’m also responsible for not only fixing it, but in that process, restoring trust not just in myself but in the government. Believe I’m responsible, I’m supposed to be held accountable-not only for what happened, but to fixing it-and that’s exactly what I’ll do.”

Emanuel told Schutz he was deferring to the State’s Attorney and “following a time-honored practice” to protect the integrity of the investigation in regards to the 400 day delay in releasing the dashcam footage of officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald 16 times, killing him. “As the mayor, I should’ve given voice to the public’s anxiety for the conclusion,” said Emanuel, who added that the delay “built trust and suspicion.”

Perhaps the most striking comments though, came when he was asked if there was a “code of silence that exists among police officers.” “The short answer is yes,” said Emanuel, who also said that “this isn’t the first shooting where maybe there hasn’t been honest reporting by officers who were there.”

It's an incredible acknowledgement, and a step toward addressing a major issue within the Chicago Police Department, but it’s too little—and it comes too late—in the wake of the disturbing fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. And though some major shifts in personnel have happened with the departure of the Police Superintendent, head of the Independent Police Review Authority and Chief of Detectives, along with the creation of yet another commission to address police accountability, one has to wonder if any of the changes will have real effects when too many times “reforms” are little more than window dressing.

Body camera pilot programs and new commissions to address accountability might be baby steps in the right direction, but the problem will also require more concrete steps toward fixing one of the major underlying causes for these issues: systemic racism. In an interview Tuesday with Curtis Black at the Chicago Reporter, Craig Futterman, a civil rights attorney who has fought for police accountability for years, said:

“We do know that young black men are stopped more often, frisked more often, arrested and jailed more often, and that they are subject to deadly force far more often.”

Additionally, Futterman said the the police department isn’t unique, but an institution embedded in a racist society. “Racial injustice is evident in every area, from education to employment to the environment,” Futterman told Black.

If Emanuel truly wants to do more than just put on a fuzzy sweater and say that he “owns” these issues, he’ll have to address how his decisions such as closing 50 neighborhood schools, half the city’s mental health clinics, funneling money to big business in the loop and more, have disaffected the people in neighborhoods of color, who live with those decisions, which are tied to police violence, everyday.