Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel dismissed the city’s police chief, Garry McCarthy, on Tuesday following public uproar over the shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer. This came one week after a court directive ordered Emanuel’s office to release a year-old video that implicated Officer Jason Van Dyke in the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The video, released last Tuesday, showed Van Dyke shoot the teenager 16 times. The officer was indicted for first-degree murder on the same day.
McCarthy’s dismissal was announced by Emanuel at a late-morning press conference on Tuesday, where he said that he had officially asked McCarthy to step down earlier in the day. Emanuel has previously sided with McCarthy amidst mounting wrath over how the police administration handled the release of the video.
“I have a lot of support and confidence in the work that he has done,” Emanuel said. “But our goal is to build the trust and confidence with the public. At this point and this juncture for the city, given what we’re working on, he has become an issue rather than someone dealing with the issue.”
McCarthy spoke to reporters on Friday and told them that he did not intend to step down. “I have never quit on anything in my life,” McCarthy said. “The mayor has made it very clear that he has my back. If people peel away the onion on what’s happening right now in the policing world, you’re going to find a police department that is doing an exceptional job, and quite frankly I’m not going to quit on the people of Chicago, and I’ll never quit on these men and women.”
Even before the release of the video, members of the Chicago Urban League (an association of black city council members) had pushed for McCarthy’s dismissal over the increasing homicide rate in the city in 2015. There were also complains over the police chief’s minimal endeavors to employ and promote African-American officers. The League members also had the intention to advance a vote of no-confidence against McCarthy this month.
Demands for McCarthy’s dismissal increased over the last week, after the video was released. Demonstrators took to the streets, demanding McCarthy’s firing as they shouted, “16 shots and a cover up!”
McCarthy, 56, began his career at the New York police department at the age of 22. He steadily rose through the ranks to become NYPD’s Deputy Commander of Operations. In 2006, he was appointed as police director in Newark, New Jersey. Mayor Emanuel hired him as the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department shortly after taking office in May 2011.
In the video dated October 20, 2014, McDonald is seen walking in the middle of the street. He seems to be walking away from the police when he is first hit. According to the prosecuting attorneys, Van Dyke fired at McDonald 16 times in a span of 15seconds. The other five officers who were present at the time of the shooting held their fire.
Van Dyke was charged and later suspended without pay. He was freed from jail after paying $1.5million bail.
Police stated that they were trailing McDonald after receiving a 911 call that the teenager was breaking into cars and brandishing a knife. The prosecution said that he had deflated a squad car tire using his knife just before being shot. He was later found holding a knife with a 3-inch blade and his system intoxicated with PCP (popularly known on the streets as “Angel Dust”).