Chicago aldermen have been upbraided for swiftly approving a $5 million settlement to the family of Laquan McDonald, the black teenager fatally shot 16 times by a white police officer.
They never saw the video of him gunned down in the street. They didn’t inquire much.
But at an 11-hour hearing Tuesday, many city council members used the opportunity to finally start asking some questions, but also to make statements.
“We do understand that there are good police officers there,” Ald. Emma Mitts said. “But Lord help help them bad suckers. Lord help them because they don’t need to be out there representing nobody.”
Sharon Fairley, the new acting head of the Independent Police Review Authority, told aldermen that Mayor Rahm Emanuel gave her the directive of fixing IPRA.
“I think that IPRA can do a much better job of fulfilling its mandate of driving policies and procedures with the Chicago Police Department learning about what’s wrong with the culture and the processes as we conduct our investigations,” Fairley told aldermen.
Aldermen threw many questions at her, from IPRA procedures to police contracts, but Fairley often answered that with only four days on the job she hasn’t had time to fully analyze the issues yet.
Still, Tuesday was riddled with council contradictions.
Just two months ago the now-fired head of IPRA Scott Ando appeared before the council as part of the budget hearings. Aldermen had only a few questions, speaking to Ando for less than 45 minutes.
Now faced with an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Emanuel has wholly discredited the police discipline system in Chicago, saying it needs to be reformed from top to bottom.
Chicago has paid out more than $500 million in settlements for police wrongdoings since 2004. City Council has approved those checks.
Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the union, defended officers when he addressed city council
“The rhetoric that comes from here and the media has really really kicked these kids while they’re down, these officers,” Angelo said.
But his comments aggravated Ald. Pat Dowell.
“Mr. Angelo, I’m very upset with you,’ Dowell said. “I was taken aback when you said your kids are feeling like they’ve been kicked while they’re down. Well, our kids are getting killed while they’re down. I want you know that this FOP contract, the status quo is unacceptable. And we’re going to have to make some changes on that. And if you’re uncomfortable with it, we’re uncomfortable and that’s just too bad.”
Eight hours into the meeting, at dinnertime, Chicago’s new Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante stepped before the city council. A written copy of his prepared remarks had started quote, “Good Morning.” By that point, there were probably only 12 aldermen still at the hearing.
Escalante was the chief of detectives when the Laquan McDonald shooting happened. Questions linger about whether officers on the scene lied about the teenager lunging toward officers.
“Let me be clear, any officer who lies in the course or performance of their duty or who files false case reports in the course or performance of their duty or who covers up the bad actions of others must be disciplined and will face termination,” Escalante said.
While Escalante spoke a group of young black men erupted into protest from the back of the gallery, repeating the phrase “16 shots and a cover up.”
Police escorted them out of council chambers.