Chicago's Mayor Promises New Era Of Transparency After Shooting Video Forced Out Of City's Hands By Court

from the [airquote]-REFORM-[/airquote] dept

A Chicago police officer shot Laquan McDonald as he walked away from him, carrying a knife. Officer Jason Van Dyke emptied his service weapon in McDonald’s direction less than 30 seconds after his vehicle arrived on scene. McDonald was hit 16 times, with a majority of those coming after he was already laying on the ground.

The dashcam video — buried by the city for 13 months as it fought Uber-driving citizen journalist Brandon Smith’s FOIA lawsuit — directly contradicted reports written by multiple officers.

The report quotes Van Dyke saying: “(Laquan), raised knife across chest over shoulder, pointed knife at (me)…(I) believed (Laquan) was trying to kill (me).”

Van Dyke’s partner and driver, Officer Joe Walsh, raced around the car, pointed his weapon but didn’t shoot. He told an investigator he: “believed (Laquan) was attacking Van Dyke with knife attempting to kill (him).”

In the video released two weeks ago, Van Dyke and Walsh are seen driving up, as McDonald walks down the centerline of Pulaski Road, the officers getting out of their SUV and Van Dyke almost immediately opening fire on McDonald as he angled away from them.

Officer Dora Fontaine said:”(Laquan) raised (his) right arm toward (Van Dyke) as if attacking (him).”

The dashcam video was buried so the official narrative could take hold: a threatened officer killed a man in self-defense. To aid in this, a nearby Burger King was raided by officers to confiscate footage caught by its CCTV cameras.

This footage was eventually released as well, but every recording from every Burger King camera included an 80-minute gap covering the time the shooting took place.

The released dashcam video flipped the narrative. It was no longer Officer Van Dyke defending himself from a dangerous suspect. It was Officer Van Dyke dumping 16 bullets into a person walking away from him. Van Dyke was charged with murder shortly before the video was released. Had the court not ordered the release of the video, it’s very likely Van Dyke would still be employed by the Chicago PD and not facing any criminal charges.

The mayor’s office immediately went into damage control mode, immediately throwing Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy under the nearest bus. Notably, Mayor Rahm Emanuel claimed McCarthy was a “distraction,” rather than the failed “leader” of a police force that ran its own “black site” and has been synonymous with abuse and corruption for years.

Critics also noted Emanuel had fought the release of this video for months, dating back to his re-election run where he claimed its release would “taint” a federal investigation.

Rahm Emanuel wants to have it both ways: defend his city’s frequently horrendous police force and be the bold reformer who will finally clean up the cesspool it’s become under his (and his predecessors’) watch. Consequently, he’s failing at both.

The police already see Emanuel as a fair-weather tool of the media and general public — much like most politicians. The public’s view of Emanuel is nearly identical, even if it’s more concerned about the city’s cops, rather than for them.

His apparent complicity in the recording’s cover-up make his new claims of unprecedented transparency very suspect. So do his actions.

Brandon Smith, who forced the video out of the city’s hands, wasn’t notified by the city that the video was being released. He ended up locked out of the press conference announcing the release because he had no press credentials. Officials issuing statements on the release never mentioned his name.

This doesn’t sync up with the mayor’s public statements:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed the arrival of a fresh new era of sincerity and openness concerning policing in Chicago. “I know that personally, I have a lot of work to do to win back the public’s trust, and that words are not enough,” the mayor told the City Council.

Referring to the video of the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, Emanuel said: “Every day that we held onto the video contributed to the public’s distrust. And that needs to change.”

And he wasn’t content to wait for change, he made clear: “It starts today. It starts now.”

“Now” is a meaningless word in Mayor Emanuel’s mouth, as Steve Bogira of the Chicago Reader points out.

The mayor fought for months to suppress the video showing the slaying of the 17-year-old McDonald. And now he’s continuing to fight to suppress videos of the fatal police shooting of 17-year-old Cedrick Chatman almost three years ago.

The video Bogira is seeking involves Officer Kevin Fry, who has a history of shooting unarmed citizens and being named in civil rights lawsuits. Chatman was carrying an iPhone box. In 2007, he shot an unarmed 17-year-old because he believed he was reaching for a gun. It turned out to be the teenager’s belt buckle. In that case, the teen who was shot received a $99,000 settlement.

Emanuel’s new transparency apparently hasn’t filtered down to the PD. Bogira notes its FOIA denial tactics remain largely unchanged.

The police department is on even shakier ground in withholding the Chatman videos. There is no ongoing criminal investigation: the state’s attorney’s office in May 2013 declined to prosecute Fry, citing “insufficient evidence of criminal intent.” Nor is there a pending disciplinary investigation: in June, IPRA closed its investigation of Fry, concluding that his shooting of Chatman was justified.

Bogira may be expecting a bit too much from a PD likely besieged by FOIA requests, but he’s not wrong to call out the mayor for talking big about reform while doing nothing to ensure his works are followed by meaningful actions. The new transparency will likely last only as long as it has to — until the furor dies down, the DOJ packs up and heads back to Washington, and everyone can go back to pretending gunning down citizens is just the natural side effect of everyday police work.

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Comments on “Chicago's Mayor Promises New Era Of Transparency After Shooting Video Forced Out Of City's Hands By Court”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Footage to the rescue

And yet again footage is released backing up police statements and exonerating a wrongfully accused officer, showing why police forces across the nation are clamoring for faster roll-outs of body-cams.

Wait, what’s that you say? It’s another case where the exact opposite happened? Police both withheld and destroyed footage of what happened, and lied about what had happened, under the justified belief that without the video evidence to contradict them, their claims would have been taken at face value, letting a cop literally get away with murder?

Well, I’m sure this has absolutely nothing to do with why so many police forces object to cameras anywhere near them, whether held by someone else or worn on their own bodies.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So all of the officers involved in the “alleged” cover-up have been suspended right?
Having them anywhere near an active case should raise serious concerns, not to mention any cases they were involved with in the past where they might have altered evidence to support a narrative not based on fact.

When a cop turns in other cops for wrongdoing, the cops attack them. When a cop violates someones rights/murders/rapes they jump to the forefront demanding no one rush to judgement. Perhaps it is time to stop letting them try to use the image of all cops to protect that image in the face of clear abuses.

When the cops don’t police themselves, are rarely held accountable, and the required “evidence” to bring a case forward is higher than they use to convict ordinary people it might just be time to admit the system is broken and needs extraordinary action to clean it up and keep it clean.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It is about getting the powers that be admit that there is actually a problem so that they move to fix it. For far to long they have looked away worried about not getting the support of this criminal shielding organization, because there are still people who think cops are poor put upon souls targeted by people with an axe to grind because they have never had it happen to them so it can’t happen. If we don’t hold them to the law, the law fails everyone and they need to understand this.

nemesistyrannus (profile) says:

Re: cops failing to police themselves

Are the private courts, owned by private corps that employ and afford remuneration for services rendered by those pretending to be public servants, going to render actual justice?
Anyone accepting these unconstitutional courts and their federalized pirate forces dba police, as having lawful authority , will be thoroughly assimilated without recourse.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

So, do you do still do this when your “guy” is in charge, or do you only pull weak deflection tactics with the current administration? I’m just curious if you’re one of those people that just happened to switch from “criticising the president is treason” to criticising him for everything on January 20th, 2009.

If not, I’m curious about which candidate you believe is going to fix the Chicago police department from the White House, and how.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

No, I hate the Repubs for the Patriot Act. But from the tone of your response I can tell you are a defender of the current admin. Problem is, people like you are willing to overlook the lies and cover ups as long as the agenda is being progressed. I guarantee you will vote for Hillary even though her track record is only rivaled by the current Pres for being abysmal.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

Well, if you weren’t a partisan idiot, you could look at my profile and see why that isn’t happening, and how you might want to rethink whatever strawman you were constructing to attack me. But, hey, I occasionally try to goad an honest conversation out of someone who immediately jumps in with “waah Obama!” as the root of all your country’s problems. I find your politics fascinating to discuss, although it’s depressing how many people are not interested in nuance so long as they can attack a fiction.

I was just curious as to how you place the responsibility for Chicago’s internationally renowned, decades- if not centuries-long corruption directly at his feet. Someone who’s not only been in power for 6 years (and therefore cannot realistically have performed the cultural change required to avoid this event), but who has no direct control over the Chicago police force. Guess I’ll have to wait a bit longer for that honest conversation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

Remember, it is far easier for a lot of people to blame singular individuals. There is a serious problem with the group think that occurs naturally with humanity.

Minorities like to blames white racism for their woes, business leaders like to blame the poor for theirs… and BOTH parties likes to blame the other despite never noticing or admitting that with only few exceptions, when our rights are trampled both parties are agreeing to it and passing those laws where everyone gets some sort of scratch on the back that only serves the interests of the elite to the detriment of the people.

I do not see the problem going away anytime soon, people will keep blaming the 1 man at the top because it is easy to do so and ignoring the few hundred running congress where an equal amount of power exists.

I think both Obama and Bush should be brought up on charges of treason against the nation and sitting in jail for the very rest of their lives.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

“Remember, it is far easier for a lot of people to blame singular individuals.”

Yep, but easy blame is usually nonsensical, as we see here. Blaming Obama for a problem that’s not only beyond his control, but realistically has its roots before he was born, let alone in office, rather dumb.

That’s why I push for a real discussion rather than “blame the leader of the team that’s not mine”. It seems to be getting worse, however. I mean, there was plenty of blame thrown at Bush, but it seemed to be more in line with things he’d actually done rather than because he was the nearest scapegoat.

“I think both Obama and Bush should be brought up on charges of treason against the nation and sitting in jail for the very rest of their lives.”

Bush, I understand. What’s Obama done that’s so horrific that’s not either a) a continuation of Bush policies or b) on par with leaders of allied nations? I hear a lot of rhetoric, but nothing concrete other than a couple of controversial policies (e.g. drone strikes) – but controversy doesn’t mean treasonous.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

“What’s Obama done that’s so horrific that’s not either a) a continuation of Bush policies or b) on par with leaders of allied nations?”

If my predecessors and fellow leaders had a policy of pushing people into shark infested waters, would that act then be forgivable?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

How about how he ran his campaign on stopping all of the things that GW was doing like torture, extrajudicial murders, wars that aren’t legally wars, reigning in the corruption and defense and on and on. Then he gets elected and all of the blackmail that the Intelligence agencies had on him forced him to take on the exact same policies. Remember before they are public officials, they are just another user of 3rd party data collection companies just like the rest of us. A constitutional professor knows exactly what is wrong with the erosion of rights that is ongoing, yet keeps pretending it isn’t happening.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

“How about how he ran his campaign on stopping all of the things that GW was doing”

How about it? Politicians run on all sorts of things, and Obama at least made some attempts to reverse certain things that Bush has never apologised for (an example would be Guantanamo – Obama made numerous efforts to close it as promised, but was met by a Congress that not only opposed every location for prisoners to be rehoused, but signed bills specifically to stop any relocation from being funded.). Despite claims to the contrary, Obama isn’t a dictator and he can’t achieve a lot without the support of the rest of the government, many of whom outright promised to do everything they could to stop him achieving anything.

Now, I’m disappointed as anyone else, but to pretend that not reversing Bush policies is as bad as putting them in place is disingenuous. The real issue now is that you not only have few politicians even paying lip service to stopping those policies as Obama did, you actually have a subset promising to make things a lot worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What do you expect from a product of the most transparent admin in history?

I was just curious as to how you place the responsibility for Chicago’s internationally renowned, decades- if not centuries-long corruption directly at his feet.

Probably in the same way that Obama can lay every thing at GW’s feet and you fall for it. Oh, and maybe because he is of the same party that has led most all of the big cities into corruption, high crime and taxes.

As for honest conversation, I am all for that. I don’t love the Repubs but I can say that the Dems don’t stand for much of anything I believe in. Their policies lead to despair and dependency.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: cops need term limits

Wouldn’t addressing the cultural and organisational problems rife within the department be a better solution than throwing out the most experienced officers, while hoping you got rid of them before they corrupted younger colleagues? bear in mind that time of services is far from the only factor in this kind of corruption.

“you can flush the jaded police out of the system”

If someone knows they’re going to be canned in a couple of years no matter what they do, wouldn’t that make them more jaded/corruptible when they get there, not less?

Anonymous Coward says:

the "Courtesy Turn"

From watching the police dash-cam video, one thing that caught my attention was the way that the approaching police car immediately steered the car and turned its headlights away from the suspect the instant the cop walking up pointed his gun at him. It was as if one cop was reading the mind of the other cop, and knew he was about to fire his gun, so he quickly whipped the steering wheel (thus disengaging the camera) barely a second before the bullets started flying.

But in this case the driver was not fast enough, and the guy was shot while still in the camera frame.

It seems to be a widespread custom among cops, that whenever something bad is about to happen, the other cops instinctively turn away so their cameras don’t record anything incriminating.

Is this something they practice and drill in police training? In this case, the cop might have gotten way with murder if he had simply waited another second or two before firing, thus allowing the cop in the car to successfully employ “The Courtesy Turn.”

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

The Farmer and the Viper

It’s amusing to watch how so many of the people stridently calling for Mayor Emmanuel’s resignation right now are the same ones who worked so hard to get him elected in the first place.

I say, let him stay in office and finish out his term. This is what you get, people of Chicago, for electing a politician with a long and well-documented history of corruption in the first place. Like the story of the farmer and the viper, you knew exactly what he was when you picked him up.

scatman09 (profile) says:

“If someone knows they’re going to be canned in a couple of years no matter what they do, wouldn’t that make them more jaded/corruptible when they get there, not less?”

Not necessarily. Most pro athletes and US soldiers can honestly acknowledge that their current employment is temporary. I doubt that most of them are jaded by this aspect. Some term limited police will see their employment as a means to an end. Plus they’ll have pensions, I’m sure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…US soldiers can honestly acknowledge that their current employment is temporary…

The US military has a rigid time in service policy; it could be equated to term limits. One enlists (or is commissioned) for so many years and can re-enlist up to 20 years total. Only higher ranks can continue up to 30 years; bear in mind that 3, 4, & 5 star ranks are presidential appointments. (No, the US doesn’t currently have any general officer with 5 stars.) And if one completes 20 years they will have a pension.

Could such a policy work with police? If the police have a physical fitness standard like the military that each member had to re-qualify every year some would likely be ‘selected out’ after 20 years, or sooner in a few cases. The same could be said for marksmanship: the military requires periodic re-qualification; failure to qualify may result in ‘non-reenlistment’ or ‘selected out’.

Pronounce (profile) says:

Hawk Management

Many of the people that make up a society want to go about their business, but most people grow up knowing there are two ways of viewing culture; One way is as a hawk, where the person views others as a resource to be used as they see fit, and The other way is as a chicken where they see others as members of a cultural pool (though not necessarily as equals, aka pecking order).

A police force is established by the majority of the culture, because they desire a life free from “hawk” predation (hawk management).

The problem with this is that those individuals who tend to be hawks are the same group that make “good” police officers. My daughter dated a cop and they talked about the psych profile for becoming a police officer, and it was as you’d expect a hawk personality to look like: Type A, aggressive, and domineering. If you want to employ a person who is good at controlling others then a hawk is just the type of person you want.

So the issue for a society is how do you achieve security by giving control to another and at the same time continue to live free from those with power taking advantage of those without power.

(I have some cultural design ideas that might work if it wasn’t true that people tend to fall into patterns and the above societal structure is one that history proves people naturally tend to, and so it would be pointless to make a suggestion knowing that people would reject it because it didn’t feel natural to them.)

Christenson says:

Re: Hawk Management -- ideas

Dear Pronounce

The following XKCD is just for you:

I’d love to hear your ideas, as I have noticed the problem before in the form of: “Cops encounter too many bad people over time to stay sane” and claimed the right answer, like with air traffic control, is actually making the cop duty a part time thing, with some other duty the rest of the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“time to start making lists of dirty cops then gunning them down.

Doesn’t seem like using the laws to take down murdering cops are working very well. Why not take a page out of their book and just start shooting people.”

Besides the (hopefully) obvious ethical and legal issues involved, retaliating in that fashion is guaranteed to make the situation far worse, in ways that should not need any explanation.

Lawrence D’Oliveiro says:

This May Be A Stupid Question, But ...

… isn’t there some kind of principle regularly cited by supporters of the Second Amendment that arming yourself allows you to defend against attacks by the Government?

Yet, police shooting an armed person is usually accepted without question. It is the shooting of unarmed people that brings down the moral censure.

In other words, carry a gun → get shot by the Government → tough shit, baby: you brought it on yourself, Second Amendment or no Second Amendment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This May Be A Stupid Question, But ...

There are also countries like Norway, where the citizenry are allowed to have guns but the police are not. But Norway does not have inner-city ghettos or a culture of crime that plagues the US. Though the country recently suffered a mass-shooting incident worse than any in American history, so Norway is not quite the utopia it might seem.

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