Emanuel apologizes for Laquan McDonald police shooting, tries to reset how he … – Chicago Tribune
“That has to change in this city. That has to come to an end and end now!” Emanuel said. “No citizen is a second-class citizen in the city of Chicago! If my children are treated one way, every child is treated the same way.”
Emanuel’s mention of a double standard drew the only round of applause.
‘This isn’t Mayberry’
Aldermen had mixed reactions. Most have approved hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements for victims of police brutality while demanding little change in how the department operates, and all have come under fire in the McDonald controversy.
“This is something we haven’t heard before,” said Ald. Leslie Hairston, 5th, a frequent Emanuel critic. “It talked about some of the core and key things that are problems here in the city of Chicago, and I think that’s a very big step.”
But Ald. Roderick Sawyer, 6th, said the mayor still has a lot of work to do.
“(Emanuel) is going to be judged by his actions, not his words,” Sawyer said. “So, we hope the ensuing actions will be substantive and will show real meaning to make that connection back with the community so we can establish that trust.”
The City Council discussion that followed the speech illustrated how the pull-in-the-same-direction note the mayor hit could have a tough time gaining long-term traction in a notoriously balkanized city.
Ald. Anthony Napolitano, from the Far Northwest Side 41st Ward that’s crowded with cops and other city workers, pointed to Chicago’s violence and said it’s not fair to pillory police officers for trying to deal with the situation.
“You have to remember we’re not dealing with just a normal city. This isn’t Mayberry. This is a tough city,” said Napolitano, a former police officer. “There’s a war going on out there. And a lot of you will pretend like you’ve seen it or you’ve read it, or you’ve watched it on TV. But a lot of you have not been out there and have not seen it.”
That prompted a response from West Side Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th. “You know what? You’re damn right this is not Mayberry,” Ervin said. “I don’t know where it is that you may be looking at, but everybody deserves to be treated with respect. Just because someone commits a criminal act doesn’t give anybody the right to abuse them.
“Unless you’re committed to making some changes, go home,” Ervin said. “Come to the West Side of Chicago. Come to the South Side of Chicago, and you will see why folks are upset.”
Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd, spoke about her relatively affluent North Side upbringing while urging her colleagues to help each other experience different parts of the city. “I’m from the North Side, and growing up we were taught don’t go to the South Side. Don’t go to the West Side. And that is absolutely wrong,” she said. “What I would like to do in the future is go visit, go visit your ward offices and hang out in your ward and see what happens on the South Side and the West Side. And I invite you to come over to our side of the city.”
Far South Side Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, followed shortly after Mell by blasting Chicagoans who haven’t opened their eyes earlier to the fact African-American neighborhoods have long been badly treated by police in a way that is only now getting attention because it was caught on tape.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ve been living in a bubble, shame on you,” Beale said. “We’ve been living with reality in our community. We’ve been living with situations like this forever. And until you see it, you don’t believe it. Well, now you see it. Believe it.”
Beale said it’s apparent the “bell finally went off” with the mayor on the issue of police brutality.
“If it had not been for that video, we would not be standing here talking about this today,” Beale said. “I’m sorry for what happened to that gentleman, that young man, but we’ve been talking about these things in this city for decades and it has fallen on deaf ears. And I thank the mayor for finally saying we have to change this corrupt system in this city. We got to change it.”
‘We don’t want your apology!’
The narrative of Emanuel’s speech and his urgency to fix the city’s police problems also exposed the mayor’s prior lack of action on the issue.
“We have to be honest with ourselves about the issue,” Emanuel said. “Each time when we confronted it in the past, Chicago only went far enough to clear our consciences so we could move on.”
That Band-Aid approach was evident in January 2013 when, at Emanuel’s request, the City Council voted to approve $33 million in police conduct settlements. At the time, Emanuel sought to reassure citizens that the city’s bleak history of lax police oversight came to an end when he was elected mayor, adding that McCarthy had “put different rules in place, different staffing in place in internal affairs.”
On Wednesday, Emanuel also brought up the department’s so-called “code of silence,” in which officers cover up the wrongdoing of their colleagues. In condemning the practice, Emanuel referenced a frequent complaint from officers — that witnesses refuse to come forward. “We cannot ask citizens in crime-ravaged neighborhoods to break the code of silence if we continue to allow a code of silence to exist within our own police department,” he said.
It was the mayor and his administration’s lawyers, however, who tried to wipe out a 2012 verdict involving an off-duty Chicago cop who beat a defenseless female bartender. The city offered to pay the woman the $850,000 the jury awarded her in exchange for her support of a motion to vacate the decision that the Police Department had a practice of protecting its own. The judge in the case refused to vacate the finding.
Emanuel’s lack of action was on the minds of hundreds of protesters who marched outside City Hall. Among them was Angelina Espindola, who dismissed the mayor’s show of emotion and called him out for backtracking on police corruption as the McDonald controversy escalated.
” ‘Sorry’ isn’t going to bring those kids back,” said Espindola, 28, who lives in Pilsen. “All (Emanuel) is doing is talking. Now he’s doing it because everyone’s paying attention.”