Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy Tuesday following the handling and release of a controversial video showing a white Chicago officer shooting a black 17-year-old 16 times.
“Now’s the time for fresh eyes and new leadership,” Emanuel said at a press conference Tuesday, saying he was grateful for McCarthy’s service to the city but that “people must have confidence in our entire system.”
McCarthy’s resignation was part of a series of moves Chicago officials have made in the last week addressing police accountability since the release of the video of Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by Officer Jason Van Dyke on Oct. 20, 2014. Last week, Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder, while the mayor has called for a task force to study how excessive force incidents are handled and has pledged to increase the use of body cameras for police.
Both McCarthy and Emanuel have come under fire for the way in which they’ve handled the incident, which occurred over a year ago and took a lawsuit to make a police dash cam video of the shooting public.
Last October, Van Dyke shot McDonald after the teen was walking in the middle of Pulaski Road on Chicago’s Southwest Side carrying a knife. Police say McDonald was high on PCP and refused to drop the knife. A dash cam video taken of the incident shows McDonald walking away from officers as Van Dyke fires from roughly 10 to 15 feet away. McDonald spins and falls to the ground and is then shot multiple times while lying in the street.
The Chicago police union initially said that McDonald lunged at officers before he was shot.
The mayor repeatedly tried to block the video’s release, citing ongoing federal and state’s attorney investigations into the shooting. But a Cook County judge ordered the video to be made public last week following a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by a Chicago-based journalist. Following the video’s release, protesters called for police reforms, demonstrated along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile and demanded McCarthy’s resignation.
For years, Chicago police have fended off lawsuits and accusations of torture and wrongful convictions. The McDonald shooting and the police response followed a pattern of false statements made by police regarding officer conduct. In April, the city approved a $5 million settlement for McDonald’s family.
McCarthy, who worked as a commander for the New York Police Department and as the police chief in Newark, N.J., before coming to Chicago, oversaw declines in homicides and violent crimes last year that reached historic lows for the city. This year, however, murders are up 13% compared with this time last year.
First Deputy Superintendent John Escalante, who has been with the Chicago Police Department for almost three decades, has been named interim commissioner while a search for a permanent police chief is ongoing.