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Chicago police superintendent out amid anger over Laquan McDonald shooting video

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has fired his longtime police superintendent Garry McCarthy. The move came one week after the city released a dash-cam video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Gwen Ifill learns more from Paris Schutz of WTTW.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Now we return to Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired his longtime police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, earlier today. The move comes exactly a week after the city released this dash-cam video showing Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. He fired at the teen 16 times.

    Only now, more than one year after the shooting, has Van Dyke been charged with first-degree murder. The video sparked outrage and protests across the city and calls for a shakeup within the police department.

    Before the mayor's announcement this morning, The Chicago Sun-Times called on its front page for McCarthy's ouster.

    Paris Schutz of WTTW Chicago has been covering the fallout and he attended today's press conference.

    Welcome, Paris.

    So, I have to ask you the first obvious question. What did Garry McCarthy know, and when did he know it?

  • PARIS SCHUTZ, WTTW:

    Well, Garry McCarthy had seen the video before the rest of the public had seen the video. It's questionable what he knows overall about the case.

    The reason for his firing was because public outcry had gotten so heated, not only from protesters, but from, as you said, The Sun-Times and from African-American aldermen who were about to take a vote of no confidence in McCarthy.

    Now, McCarthy says his hands were tied, that he had removed Van Dyke once he had seen this video, but because of union contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police, he couldn't actually fire McCarthy from his job. But, today, McCarthy is the fall person, and he's out of his job.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    So, as far as we know, there wasn't necessarily wrongdoing, but it was the optics of the situation. I mean, just this morning, Garry McCarthy was on morning television in Chicago. He seemed to be secure in his job.

  • PARIS SCHUTZ:

    He was.

    And even last night, I had asked the mayor's office whether they are going to announce the firing of McCarthy, and they said, no, they are going to announce the creation of a new task force.

    But there were so many questions about not just the shooting, but the aftermath, why the initial narrative from that crime scene said that McDonald had been lunging at police officers and threatening them, while they clearly weren't doing that, if you look at the video, and why, overall, there seems to be this culture of protecting cops and not disciplining them.

    McCarthy had also protected the job of another cop, Dante Servin, who while he was off duty had shot an innocent woman. And the state's attorney, Anita Alvarez, the Cook County's state attorney, had brought manslaughter charges against that cop. The judge acquitted the cop and said you should have brought murder charges. McCarthy defended that job — and kept that cop on the job for several years.

    So, it's — this has been fomenting for a long time, and the McDonald case was sort of the final straw for many people in the community.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Well, there are also questions about the mayor's political livelihood at this point. Are those questions still alive tonight?

  • PARIS SCHUTZ:

    I think he's done an effective job tampering down the calls for his resignation, but clearly this isn't going to be enough.

    Now, there is a lot of anger at the mayor, because he — the city was aware that this video existed months and months and months ago. They settled with the McDonald family in February for $5 million because they saw how bad the video was.

    But the mayor's administration fought back dozens of freedom of information requests from reporters and the public to get that video out. They said it was because there was an ongoing federal investigation, state investigation into this officer, and releasing that video would compromise those investigations.

    But a lot of protesters and onlookers believed that the mayor was trying to save his political future. He was in the midst of a very heated runoff election, so there's a lot of anger at him still, too.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And briefly, also, Paris, this task force that was formed, they're bringing in the former Massachusetts governor, Chicago native Deval Patrick, to run it. Does anybody have any confidence in this task force?

  • PARIS SCHUTZ:

    I think the initial reaction to this task force was incredulity, that this was all the mayor was going to do to respond to this.

    Remember, the mayor hasn't said anything public about this case since the video surfaced a week ago. I think what most people want, lawyers, editorial boards, is an independent federal investigation into the police department.

    Why is it that so few officers are disciplined? Only 3 percent of officers that have complaints against them end up getting disciplined. And I don't think at this point the public really trusts the independence of oversight until it comes from someone like the feds.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Paris Schutz of WTTW in Chicago, thank you very much.

  • PARIS SCHUTZ:

    Thank you.

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