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Fired Police Chief McCarthy: 'Somebody Had To Take The Fall' For Laquan Video

By Sam Stecklow in News on Mar 11, 2016 9:05PM

Chicago Police Superintendant Garry McCarthy. Photo Credit: Viewminder

Chicago's ex-police superintendent Garry McCarthy made a probably ill-advised appearance on a panel at Harvard University's Institute of Politics this week—his first high-profile public since he was fired in the wake of the Laquan McDonald police shooting scandal.

McCarthy played down his role in the aftermath of the Laquan McDonald killing by a Chicago police officer, which sounds more and more like a cover-up every day. He also portrayed himself as a victim of the establishment: "Somebody had to take the fall" for the shooting, he said, and then raised his hand and said, "Hi."

McCarthy said he saw the video just one day after the shooting took place on Oct. 20, 2014. "That was the end of my involvement," he said, until the Independent Police Review Authority recommended he strip the officer, Jason Van Dyke, of his police authority. He also said he would not have recommended releasing the video to the public even if he was asked to.

"If I was asked, which I wasn't, I would have recommended that we don't release [the video] until the investigation is concluded because that has been department practice," he said.

The thousands of emails released by Mayor Emanuel's office showed that at least his top aides were well aware of the video before Rahm says he ever was.

Baffingly, McCarthy told the panel his firing is directly related to this year's sharp crime and homicide rate increases—because the police have lost "legitimacy" in the public eye.

"One of the things they love to say to me in Chicago? They say: ‘Man, you got screwed. But somebody had to take the hit.’ I said, you’re right. And the person who is going to take the hit is the person who committed the act. At the end of the day, police legitimacy in Chicago took an enormous hit," he said. "People are dying at record numbers as a result. There’s a consequence for that. We have to recognize that if we don’t like the way the system works, change the system.”

Other reasons thrown out by police officials for the crime spike include the "ACLU effect," stemming from an agreement between the CPD and the ACLU of Illinois to attempt to get the Chicago Police Department to end its use of "street stops," which are otherwise known as "stop-and-frisk." Chicago's use of stop-and-frisk dwarfs New York City's at its absolute height —308 percent more people per 1,000 were stopped in Chicago in 2014 than New York in 2011. New York City's use of stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.

McCarthy also threw out a lot of numbers related to his tenure as CPD chief to indicate some measure of success: A 40 percent reduction in crime, the lowest homicide rates in 2013 and 2014 in five decades, complaints against officers down 50 percent, and nearly 70 percent fewer police shootings. But some numbers he didn't add included the sharp 13 percent increase in homicides in 2015, and a Chicago magazine investigation that found police had mislabeled at least 10 homicides, keeping them out of the official count.

You can watch the full video of his panel appearance, below: