BY CHARLES PRESTON AND JEREMY BORDEN
Illustrations by Daniel Rowell
Mayor Rahm Emanuel entered 2016 politically weakened, coming off a grueling 2015 campaign where he was forced into a runoff and eked out a victory over a lesser-known challenger. Then the video footage of a Chicago police officer shooting teenager Laquan McDonald was released, and it seemed the city had ventured across a political fault line.
The spotlight fell particularly on the 18 aldermen of Chicago’s Black Caucus to fight for increased police oversight and transparency for the accountability process. Meanwhile, the mayor’s office battled rising violence rates and the attempt to balance being “tough on crime” while acknowledging a crisis in confidence among black and brown communities.
Regardless of the mayor’s views, would members of the Black Caucus respond independently and be able to force change?
Here, City Bureau has compiled a timeline of key events around the shooting, resulting police accountability bills and key City Council events in the aftermath of the release of the McDonald tape.
The Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) and other advocacy groups circulate a new ordinance that would elect a civilian board to oversee the Chicago Police Department in the form of the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). The groups go on to collect more than 100,000 signatures in support of the proposal.
Laquan McDonald is shot and killed. An autopsy later reveals he was struck by sixteen bullets, allegedly by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.
City Council approves a $5 million settlement to McDonald family 47-0.
A NEW APPROACH?
Emanuel defeats Garcia 56 percent to 44 percent. Emanuel says he is “humbled” and, indicating that he understands the ascendancy of progressive Democrats, says “challenges that we face will require me to approach them differently.”
MCCARTHY UNDER FIRE FROM BLACK CAUCUS
Most of the Black Caucus holds a press conference to call for the firing of then-Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Black Caucus chairman Ald. Roderick Sawyer said that McCarthy had not adequately responded to caucus concerns around minority hiring, lack of African Americans in senior department ranks and employing more minority officers.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel fires police Superintendent McCarthy.
The Community Renewal Society, a progressive, faith-based group, seeks support for a new police accountability ordinance it calls FAIR COPS (Freedom through Accountability, Investigation, and Reform for Community Oversight of Policing Services) that provides for a new position under the inspector general that would have broad powers to investigate both individual officers and systemic issues within the police department.
Scott Ando is replaced as head of the Independent Police Review Authority, the group charged with investigating police misconduct and widely condemned after the McDonald video came out. Sharon Fairley, a deputy in the inspector general’s office, is appointed by Mayor Emanuel in his place.
A 7-POINT PLAN
The Black Caucus introduces a seven-point plan for the Chicago Police Department. While not all of the points are immediately enforceable, such as calling on CPD to stop shooting black people in the back, just one has been fully realized as of September 2017: the consideration and appointment of an African American superintendent, in this case Eddie Johnson.
EMANUEL ON THE RECORD
Mayor Emanuel delivers an impassioned speech to City Council taking responsibility for the McDonald shooting and vowing reform.
Mayor Emanuel announces that he is abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority and replacing it with the Civilian Police Investigative Agency, which will have more independence and resources.
WEAKEND ORDINANCE INTRODUCED
Mayor Emanuel outlines a plan for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, without many of the reforms sought by advocates, including independence from the mayor’s office, a permanent level of funding and the ability to hire attorneys outside of the mayor’s purview. Hairston and Ervin’s ICPM ordinance addressed those areas of concern by providing stricter oversight of the police department with more independence from the mayor’s office.
COPA legislation passes City Council 38-8, with Alds. Leslie Hairston (5th Ward), Marty Quinn (13th Ward), Matt O’Shea (19th Ward), Michael Zalewski (23rd Ward), Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward), Chris Taliaferro (29th Ward), Nick Sposato (38th Ward) and Anthony Napolitano (41st Ward) voting against it.
The new COPA office is scheduled to launch in September 2017, fully replacing the Independent Police Review Authority to oversee investigations of police misconduct.
The Invisible Institute’s Jamie Kalven publishes a report in Slate that details Laquan McDonald’s autopsy and says CPD’s account of events, that police officers fired shots as self defense, “cannot be true.”
Running for re-election, Mayor Emanuel fails to garner more than 50 percent of the vote against a field of Democrats and is forced into a runoff with Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Independent journalist Brandon Smith files Freedom of Information Act request for video footage of the McDonald shooting.
Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama orders Chicago officials to release video of McDonald’s shooting death.
Officials release the video of McDonald’s shooting, which shows police opening fire as McDonald walked away from them, appearing to contradict official police accounts. Police Officer Jason Van Dyke is charged with murder. Protests erupt in Chicago.
PROTESTERS HIT THE STREETS
Hundreds of protesters take to the streets chanting “16 shots.” The Black Caucus reiterates its call in a statement for McCarthy to be fired and expresses a “lack of confidence” in State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez.
CITIZEN POLICE MONITOR
Ald. Leslie Hairston, a member of the Black Caucus, introduces the idea of a Independent Citizen Police Monitor at a City Hall press conference. The Tribune notes that Hairston has not built support for it with the mayor’s office or within City Council. The new ordinance, extensively worked on by University of Chicago civil rights attorney Craig Futterman, includes a strong inspector general position to investigate the police department and officers accused of misconduct and provides for community oversight of the police department.
MAYORS TASK FORCE REPORT RELEASED
Ald. Ervin formally introduces the FAIR COPS ordinance. He decides, however, to team with Ald. Leslie Hairston and combine most of the elements in his bill with hers under a proposal called the Independent Citizen Police Monitor, which is also introduced on the same day. Mayor Emanuel’s hand-picked Police Accountability Task Force completes a blistering report on the Chicago Police Department, outlining racist practices.
Mayor Emanuel announces changes in the way police shootings and misconduct cases are handled, but draws criticism for stopping short of abolishing the Independent Police Review Authority.
ICPM NOT UP FOR VOTE
July 20, 2016: Ald. Hairston’s ICPM ordinance is “re-referred” by the City Council back to committee, ending its prospects for receiving a vote.
AT ISSUE: MINORITY HIRING
Members of the Black Caucus block a routine vote on a $3 billion bond bill for O’Hare Airport over a lack of minority hiring.
COPA is formally introduced and referred to a committee for further vetting.
VOTING BLOCK FAILS IN CITY COUNCIL
Most of the aldermanic Black Caucus, joining with aldermen outside the caucus, comes within one vote of blocking the O’Hare bond issue. Mayor Emanuel promises more minority firms will have the opportunity to receive contracts at the airport.
Mayor Emanuel makes several changes to the proposed COPA ordinance sought by advocates and alderman, including guaranteed funding, wider discretion for the inspector general to investigate both specific officers and department-wide problems and the ability for the new police watchdog to choose its own lawyers.
Sources: Chicago Tribune news reports and timeline; Community Renewal Society, Slate, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Chicago Sun-Times, CNN, WTTW.