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Rahm's Text Messages Show Response To Post-Christmas Police Shooting

By aaroncynic in News on Jan 26, 2016 3:11PM

Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office released six days-worth of text messages sent from an official “city-issued device” Tuesday morning in response to an open records request by the Tribune.

The messages—54 in total between Emanuel and 10 city officials—cover the period of time shortly after a Chicago Police officer shot and killed Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones, LeGrier’s neighbor, the day after Christmas.

“Good morning. Any updates I should know about,” Rahm asks Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante on the morning of Dec. 26. “Yes sir. Fatal police involved shooting. Can you take a call or call me,” responds Escalante.

LeGrier and Jones were shot and killed by Chicago Police officer Robert Rialmo, who was responding to a call from LeGrier's father Antonio. The teenager was allegedly wielding a baseball bat. Audio records released Monday show 911 dispatchers failed to send anyone to a three separate phone calls by Quintonio LeGrier to an “emergency” at his home.

The messages show careful coordination between Emanuel and some of his staff on managing the response to the shooting, as well as how closely his administration monitors media. “Media acting breathlessly,” the mayor asks his Chief of Staff Eileen Mitchell, who gives some brief details about the reviewing of 911 calls and interactions with the Tribune as they were reporting on the story. The exchange between the two ends with Emanuel writing “Just saw the Tribune update. You are positive no publi [sic] negative reaction.”

The messages also show Emanuel's concern over how the press was perceiving his trip to Cuba, where he was during the exchanges, as well as his return to Chicago. “Eileen said Kelly indicated that you all are getting a lot of calls about my trip? Also is that a sense we have a crisis,” Emanuel wrote to Adam Collins, his ‎Deputy Director of Communications, on Dec. 28. Collins tells Emanuel that the calls “have picked up today,” adding “the question is if you are home or when you will be home.” After a lengthy exchange, some of which was redacted, the mayor says “my view is not my first choice but the right choice.”

According to the Tribune, which has sued for these and other records, this marks the first time the administration has publicly acknowledge the mayor has conducted city business via text. Additionally, the city enacted a “no texting” policy from city-issued devices in 2011, shortly after the paper requested texts from the mayor. Whether or not the mayor has previously, or even has or uses a city-issued cell phone is somewhat befuddling. In a statement emailed to the Tribune, Collins writes:

"The Mayor does not have a city-issued cell phone. However, he sometimes uses a city-issued device when he goes on international trips due to web-infrastructure or security reasons."

But, there “is a distinction between the text messages Emanuel released and what the Tribune is seeking from the city in court,” according to the Tribune. The publication is seeking records of city business from the mayor's personal devices, which the administration has argued is exempt from open-records requests. Because Emanuel is conducting city business on them free from oversight however, the paper argues that this contributes to a lack of transparency.