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Mayor Rahm Emanuel Announces Firing Of Chicago Police Chief


In Chicago, there has been a change in the leadership of the police department. That's after the release of a video that showed a white police officer shooting a young black man to death which led to calls for senior officials to resign. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel told a packed room of reporters that he was responsible for what had happened in this case - the case, the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. He was holding a 3-inch knife when he was shot 16 times by white police officer Jason Van Dyke last year. The video, which showed McDonald walking away from police, created a firestorm of protest. And today, the mayor called a news conference to announce the dismissal of police superintendent Garry McCarthy even while praising the chief's leadership.


RAHM EMANUEL: But our goal is to build the trust and confidence with the public. And at this point in this juncture for the city, he has become an issue rather than dealing with the issue.

CORLEY: Over the past week, Superintended McCarthy has talked about talked about changes in the police department's culture, a return to community policing, a drop in the city's crime statistics despite a grim count of murders in some neighborhoods that police have often attributed to gang crime. So the request for the resignation may have been a surprise to the superintendent who appeared earlier in the morning on WLS, the Chicago affiliate of ABC. Even then, McCarthy said he would not resign.


GARRY MCCARTHY: I'm not going to give up on this city. I'm not going to give up on the good people of Chicago, and I'm certainly not going to give up on the Chicago Police Department.

CORLEY: But Emanuel says now it's time for Chicago to have fresh eyes and new leadership in the police department, and he announced a newly created taskforce on police accountability. The mayor has faced fierce criticism since the city fought against releasing the video for months. The city also paid McDonald's family $5 million early on. The murder charges against the officer came more than a year after the incident. Emanuel says the taskforce will examine two important questions - whether the investigation was handled properly and how to prevent it from happening again.


EMANUEL: Now, there's a common practice across the country, and there's a practice that's been in place here in the city of Chicago. You don't hinder. You don't compromise an ongoing investigation. Yet, it's clear you all want and the public deserves that information. There are two conflicting principles.

CORLEY: Several of Chicago's city councilmen have called for the superintendent's ouster, Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa among them.

CARLOS RAMIREZ-ROSA: The firing of McCarthy is a good first step, but we need that full investigation to know exactly what the mayor's office knew, exactly how this $5 million settlement was reached and whether or not the decision to pay that $5 million to the family was a political decision.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) Turn me around - ain't going to let Rahm Emanuel turn me around.

CORLEY: At city hall, protesters like Reverend Chris Griffin were not impressed with the news of the firing or the naming of a task force.

CHRIS GRIFFIN: Please do not be fooled by this task force. There was no committee needed when we saw the video. Everyone here saw what injustice was taking place.

CORLEY: And Sally Dyck, the Bishop of the United Methodist Church in Chicago, says instead of a task force, Chicago police need an independent auditor.

SALLY DYCK: Because the system is broken.


DYCK: It's dysfunctional, and it cannot discipline itself.


DYCK: The firing of the superintendent is a distraction, not a solution.

CORLEY: And the protesters also had a warning for the mayor, saying if there is no true reform of the police department, then the mayor should follow the police superintendent out the door. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.