It was a big week in criminal justice, politics and education news in the Chicago area.
We heard closing arguments in the trial of three Chicago Police officers accused of a cover-up in the 2014 fatal police shooting of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald.
Candidates for Chicago mayor submitted challenges to their opponents’ petition signatures and racked up endorsements from prominent labor and education leaders.
Meanwhile, teachers at Acero Schools charter network continue their historic strike for better pay and smaller class sizes. It’s the first charter school strike in the nation.
Morning Shift host Jenn White dives into those stories and more with WBEZ criminal justice reporter Patrick Smith, Daily Line managing editor and City Hall reporter Heather Cherone and Chicago-based freelance reporter Kim Bellware.
Charges in CPD conspiracy trial and potential impact
Patrick Smith: “Each of these officers or former officers are charged with obstruction of justice, official misconduct, and conspiracy, basically the allegations are that they lied to inflate the threat that Laquan McDonald posed to Jason Van Dyke in order to justify the shooting in killing Laquan McDonald.”
Heather Cherone: “Essentially what’s on trial is whether there is a code of silence in the Chicago police department, and if the judge finds the officers guilty, I think she would need to establish in her mind that there is beyond a reasonable doubt that that exists, and I think that determination has the potential to shape the consent decree enforcement and also to give something that activists and other critics of the police department something to protest, in order to point to during protest to say, ‘Look, it’s not one bad apple.’ I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard, ‘Well, it was just Jason Van Dyke.’ Or, ‘It was just this officer who did this.’ But this is a systemic, really an indictment of the police department and how it’s operated. So, one of the things that once the consent decree is finalized and imposed on the department, how does that change? Does it change, I think is the crucial question.”
Chicago mayoral candidates challenging each others’ signatures to get on the ballot
Heather Cherone: “We have right now nine unchallenged candidates, so that’s still a very large field, and whether or not these challenged candidates can make it on to the ballot I think is a big question. The other thing I think I should mention is that Bill Daley was challenged, so he’s not assured of a place on the ballot, and that seems like I’m talking crazy stuff, because he’s a Daley, certainly he knows how to get on the ballot, so I think there is a real significant problem in getting enough signatures because there were so many candidates, and you can only sign one petition.”
Kim Bellware: “Candidates are really looking at the other people. They’re trying to weed out their competition and consolidate as much of the same voting blocs that they’re going to need to win. That’s why you see challengers like Mendoza and Preckwinkle going at each other. Some of the people who aren’t really perceived to be as big of threats, they’re not being challenged, but part of the strategy is also one of resources because the lawyers that are required to go through line by line and do these challenges, they can be hundreds of dollars an hour. I think Dick Simpson, a former alderman who’s now at UIC estimated it might take $5 million to win the Chicago mayoral race, and so, if you’re someone who has a bigger war chest like Mendoza, like Preckwinkle, and other people that are getting up there, one way to deplete that is to really go hard in this signature contesting phase, and try to not only get their names off the ballot, if they survive this knock-out round, they have far fewer resources to be competitive down the line.”
Latest on the historic strike at the Acero Schools charter network in Chicago
Kim Bellware: “It’s the first charter strike in the country. I’m not surprised that it happened in Chicago given our labor history and given the strength of the CTU. They know how to organize and they know how to build these coalitions. These complaints have been kind of percolating through this charter network for several years. I mean, teachers have been complaining about low pay, overcrowded classrooms, different conditions. And it’s also difficult because in the case of CTU, they can bargain against an unpopular mayor. They can point fingers at a school board that maybe doesn’t have the best interests of them or the kids at heart. And then in the charter network, you have a very highly paid CEO, and just kind of from a moral high ground standpoint, it’s a harder position I think for them to hold.”