- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The head of the Chicago Police Department has been fired as part of an effort to overhaul the agency following criticism of how police handled a 2014 fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white officer.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Tuesday that he asked for the resignation of Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who has led the department since 2011.

“At this point and this juncture for the city, given what we are working on, he has become an issue rather than dealing with the issue and a distraction,” Mr. Emanuel said of his police chief.

The move comes as the city has faced criticism over the investigation into the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was shot 16 times by white officer Jason Van Dyke.

A Cook County judge ordered police to release last week the dashboard camera video that captured the October 2014 shooting. Officer Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder on the same day as the video’s release, a decision Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said she made “in the interest of public safety.”

The video’s release prompted a series of protests over the weekend, and raised questions regarding the 13 months that prosecutors waited before charging Officer Van Dyke.

In a letter released Tuesday, Illinois State Attorney General Lisa Madigan requested that the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division investigate the Chicago police.

In her letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Ms. Madigan said “the shocking death of Laquan McDonald highlights the serious questions about the use of unlawful and excessive force by Chicago police officers and the lack of accountability for such abuse. Trust in the Chicago Police Department is broken.”

Speaking at his press conference Tuesday, Mr. Emanuel praised the work his top cop has accomplished but lamented that recent events had shaken the public’s trust in the department — something that could not be restored without a shake-up at the top.

“Now is the time for fresh eyes and new leadership,” said the mayor, announcing at the same Tuesday press conference the formation of a city task force on police accountability.

But even as activists praised Mr. Emanuel’s decision to fire his top cop, there were continued calls for the mayor’s own resignation as well as that of Ms. Alvarez.

“Now that Superintendent Garry McCarthy has been removed from power we join the call that is resonating throughout the nation to determine what role did the City of Chicago played in the cover-up of Laquan McDonald’s murder,” said the Chicago Teachers Union in a statement released Tuesday.

The call was echoed by the Chicago chapter of the Black Youth Project, which also referred to the investigation into McDonald’s death as a “cover-up.”

Mr. Emanuel, a Democrat who had been President Obama’s White House chief of staff, declined to answer repeated questions from a reporter about calls for his own resignation.

While announcing the police chief’s firing, the mayor reiterated that Superintendent McCarthy had his confidence and he continued to praise his work — including how the department handled protests held this weekend over the McDonald video.

But he noted that the same could not be said of Chicago residents.

“I have a lot of loyalty to what he’s done, and him, but I have a bigger loyalty to city of Chicago,” Mr. Emanuel said.

In the meantime, the mayor has appointed First Deputy Superintendent John J. Escalante to take over as interim head of the police department.

Over the last week since the video of McDonald’s killing was released, the mayor has announced several initiatives meant to address soured police and community relations.

The five-member police task force announced alongside Superintendent McCarthy’s firing will be charged with improving independent oversight of police misconduct.

Additionally, the mayor on Sunday announced an expansion of the police body-worn camera program, which will equip officers in seven of 24 police districts with cameras.

Community activist Frank Chapman, an organizer with the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, was skeptical of the level of change the camera expansion could bring.

“Cameras haven’t been doing us much good in Chicago. They killed Laquan McDonald on camera,” Mr. Chapman said. “They are trying to institute some cosmetic measures real quick to give the false indication that they are about making some real change.”

Jennifer Harper contributed to this report.

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