CHICAGO—Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called a special City Council meeting to discuss the police department that’s now at the center of the biggest crisis of his administration.
The Wednesday speech comes as Emanuel tries to restore the trust and confidence of residents in both the police force and his own leadership amid fallout over the release of a video showing the killing of a black teen by a white officer. Officer Jason Van Dyke is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who appeared in the video to be walking away from Van Dyke as he was shot.
The footage — ordered released by a judge and made public hours after Van Dyke was charged — set off a chain of events that captured the attention of the country. Days of protests and marches followed the video’s release, including one that on the busiest shopping day of the year partially shut down the city’s most famous shopping district, Michigan Avenue.
A few days later, Emanuel announced that he had demanded and received the resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, created a new task force for police accountability and expanded the use of body cameras.
But the anger did not subside, and every day there seemed to be another issue. There was the release of hundreds of pages of documents that show police had described in their reports a far more threatening McDonald than the teen the city and the world had seen on the video.
The situation became so volatile that Emanuel was forced to do something he rarely does: backtrack. After initially saying that a federal probe of the department would be “misguided” because the U.S. Attorney’s office was already examining the McDonald shooting, Emanuel later said he welcomed such an investigation.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced a Justice Department civil rights investigation to determine if there are patterns of racial disparity in the police department’s use of force.
Emanuel then said the city would stop fighting the release of a second video that showed a police officer shooting a man in the back. That video was released Monday during a presentation in which Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said her office would not charge the officer.
Later that night, the city released yet another video, that one showing an inmate being dragged out of his cell by his handcuffed wrists. While a police review board previously found the officers’ actions justified, Emanuel said he did not see how the treatment of the man — who later died following a reaction to an antipsychotics drug — could “possibly be acceptable” and said he did not consider the investigation closed.