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Everything Wrong With Rahm's Apology Speech On Police Brutality

By Kate Shepherd in News on Dec 10, 2015 8:41PM

Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's apology speech to the City Council on Wednesday was widely criticized, even as it received some measured praise. Protestors called for his resignation during a massive, peaceful demonstration immediately afterwards. Several aldermen didn't think his call for reform was sincere.

The pressure of the Laquan McDonald video crisis is weighing down on him and his administration. We described the apology as awful and empty. Here's what several Chicago columnists, editorial boards and writers had to say about the mayor's mea culpa:

The Chicago Tribune's John Kass: Emanuel is losing control. His speech was disingenuous and he didn't address the real reason why he sat on the video for 13 months, to win reelection. There's still no transparency in Chicago politics:

Chicago's aldermen weren't buying it, because they know Rahm is just the little guy behind the curtain. He's the mayor who denied the city's inspector general the right to subpoena documents, yet he stands up there talking to Chicago about his love of transparency.

His Rahmea Culpa was OK, but not as good as the dramatic and heartfelt Richie Culpas of the Daley years, when former Mayor Richard Daley would get caught backing some corrupt and costly deal for his pals.

Special shoutout to Kass for coining the excellent term, "deep rahmorse."

Chicago Tribune Editorial Board: During Emanuel's speech to the City Council yesterday, he never said he was sorry for his efforts to keep the video under wraps during his election. He didn't blame the aldermen, who are also at fault for signing off on so many expensive police brutality settlements:

He didn't chide the aldermen for their failures, either, even though some of them have been pointing fingers at him. They've been agitating for hearings into a possible City Hall cover-up and complaining that they were suckered into approving a $5 million settlement with McDonald's family.

The truth is that the City Council has been signing off on multimillion-dollar legal settlements over police brutality for far longer than Emanuel has been mayor. Aldermen have never insisted on changes in the department's policies on the use of deadly force, or in the byzantine disciplinary process that rarely holds officers accountable for misconduct.

Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky: Chicago missed its chance to "recall" Emanuel just a few months ago. The city keeps electing corrupt politicians over and over again. Even Mayor Richard M. Daley could probably win again:

In the last election, Rahm won re-election thanks to a commercial in which he softened his image by wearing a sweater and saying "I own that." That's pretty much all it took to get Chicagoans to forgive him for four years of cuts, closings, and shady TIF deals.

Fortune: Emanuel's crisis management strategy does not work in the modern era where the videos of police brutality keep on coming. He's shown effective leadership persuading Chicagoans that he's made tough but necessary cuts. But the issues of race, justice and death are a lot deeper than money:

Another problem: Crossing the police, for any mayor at any time, is dangerous. As a rule, police forces are more popular than mayors; even when individual officers behave reprehensibly, the general public tends to support the force overall. Emanuel needs to reform the Chicago police without seeming to criticize the force. He's taking on this seemingly impossible job in the conventional way, appointing a task force that will recommend changes several months from now.

Washington Post: Some Emanuel critics and supporters may have thought his speech was genuine and heartfelt but the reaction on the streets was very different and sparked a major protest. He's been backed into a corner and may have to resign in order for Chicagoans to have any faith in government again:

For Emanuel, trust is the most critical element right now for him to take any meaningful action to help a wounded Chicago. And it's increasingly difficult to envision a scenario in which whatever Emanuel does isn't viewed as a political Hail Mary to save his career by understandably frustrated and suspicious Chicago residents.

Chicago Magazine: Police departments in other cities, such as Cincinnati, that have gone through a Department of Justice investigation have brought activists and the Fraternal Order of Police unions to the negotiating table to work through problems together. It brought real reform that might be too much for Chicago:

Along with the FOP, the collaborative agreement also included the Cincinnati Black United Front, and the reforms agreed to were considerable. They included everything Chicago's task force has agreed consider: "independent oversight of police misconduct"; best practices for identifying officers with repeated complaints; and "best practices for release of videos of police-involved incidents." (Regarding the last of those, University of Cincinnati criminologist John Eck told me, it's now expected practice that the Cincinnati police immediately alerts the community in the wake of officer-involved shootings and releases the video shortly thereafter.)

Esquire: Emanuel's apology speech came too late to distance himself from the police department's many issues from Homan Square to McDonald. What goes around comes around and not many of his friends are buying what he's saying anymore:

For a couple of years now, one expose after another has been produced demonstrating in vivid detail that the Chicago Police Department has been a terrorist cult for decades. To set up some loose boundaries for this thesis, we can say that first there was Homan Square and then there was the nearly successful attempt to cover up the extra-judicial execution of Laquan McDonald. As these stories indicate, the Emanuel administration was involved in both of these urban atrocities.

National Journal: The speech didn't change many people's minds about Emanuel. His allies remained subdued and his critics remained critical. He's feeling the pressure which is an unusual role reversal for the aggressive mayor:

Emanuel re­tains his repu­ta­tion as a savvy polit­ic­al op­er­at­or. But the crisis in Chica­go will put to the test not only his re­tail polit­ic­al skills but also his stra­tegic wis­dom.