Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel may have offered a tearful apology and promised to reform the troubled Chicago Police Department, but evidence is mounting that he was aware of plans to delay the release of the damning LaQuan McDonald tape.
A judge ordered the release of the tape because of Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by independent journalist Jamie Kalven. The scandal surrounding the tape, which shows Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times, has already led to the firing of Police Supt. Garry McCarthy.
Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder and Chicago residents have called for Emanuel and Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez to step down.
An MSNBC article said Emanuel’s promise to reform the Chicago PD doesn’t go far enough. The CPD has a history of operating with impunity and secrecy. The city has used settlements to keep victims of police violence quiet.
This is what happened in the LaQuan McDonald shooting, which happened in October 2014. City attorneys quickly offered the McDonald family a $5 million settlement, before they even filed suit. But the details of the settlement prevented the family from talking about the case or filing further lawsuits against other CPD officers. According to The Daily Beast, Emanuel approved the settlement because he didn’t want to deal with media spectacle of a white officer pumping 16 bullets into a Black teenager in the middle of a tough reelection fight.
It can be speculated that if that if the McDonald tape had been released in last year, Emanuel would have had to deal with “Ferguson times 50.”
According to the settlement agreement, the McDonald family was barred from talking about the case, or requesting additional information about the shooting until the criminal investigation was completed, and that could have taken years. David Yellen, dean of Loyola Law School in Chicago, told MSNBC the settlement was a way of keeping them quiet.
“It’s absolutely hush money,” he said.
The city of Chicago seems to have paid several other families to keep quiet and bury cases that would exposed officer misconduct. According to The Chicago Sun-Times, the city had paid more than half a billion dollars ($520 million) to settle police brutality cases over the last decade.
The family of the victims often take the settlements because they are being offered huge sums of money.
“For many clients, it’s a matter of agreeing to keep it quiet or lose the money,” said Flint Taylor, a Chicago attorney who has represented victims in cases against the CPD. “We try to fight it and we absolutely don’t agree with it, but sometimes clients just want closure – even though they know what they have could expose a police brutality.”
However, accepting a settlement means that cases against the CPD get buried and the abuse continues. But it seems many people have grown tired of the city’s habit of paying to make police brutality cases go away. The Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the CPD’s habit of not disciplining wayward officers. MSNBC also reported Illinois State Rep. Mary Flowers has introduced a proposal to recall Emanuel. She said she was frustrated with his use of settlements.
“He wants to spend the taxpayer’s dollars without any accountability,” she said. “The five million we paid for Laquan, could have been to put more teachers in the classroom.”
“There’s been a cover-up in Chicago,” said The Times in a November editorial. “ … for more than a year, Chicago officials delayed the criminal process, and might well have postponed prosecution indefinitely, had it not been for a state court forcing their hand.”