Rahm Emanuel fires his police superintendent over shooting incident

At what appeared to be a rather hastily called presser today, Chicago Mayor (and long, longtime Clinton associate) Rahm Emanuel announced that he was firing Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy. The city has been in an uproar ever since the release of the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald sixteen times. (14 of them apparently after McDonald was already down on the ground.) In his statement, Emanuel seemed to bring up plenty of blame to go around, though little or none of it was reserved for himself. (Chicago Sun Times)

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has been fired by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the mayor confirmed Tuesday.

McCarthy was called into City Hall on Monday and when he left City Hall he still had a job. But overnight, the mayor called McCarthy to tell him he was out, the Sun-Times’ Michael Sneed first reported.

Headlines from the Laquan McDonald controversy, as well those following the gang execution of Tyshawn Lee, had become too much, according to sources.

Read Emanuel’s full statement for yourself, but it’s a bit of a hodgepodge. He alternates between talking about unacceptable lapses in training and procedures and the progress the force is making in correcting those. He also gives barely a hint of noticing that the crime levels in parts of his city are out of control. As for McCarthy, Rahm includes a statement about how his record is a strong one, and one he can be proud of it. That’s simply one more bizarre aspect of a public relations appearance which felt like something from Beyond the Looking Glass. If the guy has such a strong record to stand on proudly, why are you firing him?

That’s the real question here. Why? It’s true that the captain is in charge of the ship and takes the fall if you run into an iceberg even if he’s asleep in his stateroom at the time. If that’s your rationale for firing McCarthy I suppose it works, but you should have just come out and said so. And if responsibility flows to the top, why not just resign yourself? (More on that below.)

I think we’re going to find out eventually that Rahm was basically hitting the panic button. The McDonald shooting was an unjustifiable and unmitigated disaster as I said here before and the wolves have been at Rahm’s door for a while now. The many marchers in the street have been calling for McCarthy’s ouster, and the Sun Times Editorial board was calling for the same thing over the weekend.

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy has lost the trust and support of much of Chicago, without which he cannot do his job.

Supt. McCarthy should resign. If he does not, Mayor Rahm Emanuel should fire him.

The Chicago Police Department is facing a historic crisis of mistrust, driven by stubbornly high rates of gun violence, recent revelations that officers are almost never disciplined for alleged misconduct, and the department’s questionable handling of two inexcusable fatal shootings by officers.

Emanuel is facing a city in meltdown but that’s the type of crisis of leadership you sign on for when you take the big chair. If he really had faith in his chief (as he seemed to have over the last year or more of crisis) then he could have stood by him and told the public he was instituting reforms to prevent future incidents such as the one seen on video. There would probably be riots, but from what I can see there may still be some anyway. The editorial goes on to say that they “understand” the year long delay in releasing the video. Perhaps so. The reason given is that a public release would poison the investigative process of justice. But it still smells bad to the folks chanting in the streets.

Let’s return to that question of the fish rotting from the head for a minute. If McCarthy was thrown under the bus to save Emanuel’s skin, it may wind up being too little too late. One group has already gathered more than 10,000 signatures calling for Rahm himself to step down. That seem highly unlikely to me, but it begs the question of what high level officials are supposed to do in the face of mass protests. We’ve seen it in colleges this year, when leaders have been forced out by the marches and protests of students who are unhappy with how they do their jobs. Admittedly, the sins Rahm is being held accountable for are more serious in nature than a poop swastika or a failure to offer a class in why white people are a problem, but is this the new order of the day? If the masses are unhappy and take to the streets, are leaders simply expected to step down in fear of their wrath? Traditionally we remove people from office at the next election or by a recall under extreme duress. Threatening to burn down the city isn’t exactly the shining path of democracy in action.

If the protesters in the street actually do manage to force out Emanuel without a vote we’re going to be entering a dark time in our history. Buckle up… the ride may get bumpy from here on out.