Chicago Police

Politicians, Activists Praise Firing of McCarthy, But Some Say More Needs to Be Done

Immediately after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he was firing Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy Tuesday, Illinois politicians and activists spoke out about the mayor's decision, largely in approval. Some, however, believe more work needs to be done and more officials need to step down, including Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Emanuel himself.

Sen. Dick Durbin released a statement saying police officers must be held accountable for failing to live up to the "high standards they have sworn to uphold." 

"Now is the time to move forward and build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect between the Police Department and the community it serves," Durbin said in his statement. "Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect us. Those who fail to live up to the high standards they have sworn to uphold must be held accountable." 

Durbin's statement echoes Emanuel's words that the "trust and leadership of the department has been shaken and eroded" under McCarthy's leadership.

Ald. Howard Brookins, who is a member of the City Council's Black Caucus, also praised Emanuel for his decision. After the dash-cam video showing the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald was released to the public last week, members of the Black Caucus held a press conference calling for McCarthy's resignation for the second time in just a few months.

"I appreciate the Mayor's willingness to change course and to make the right decision to demand new leadership at the Chicago Police Department," Ald. Brookins said. "I stand ready to work with the administration and my colleagues to restore confidence to the department by finding the right choice to become the next Superintendent." 

Ald. Leslie Hairston, also a member of the Black Caucus, demanded more change needs to happen in the police department in addition to firing McCarthy.

"We need to have a clearance sale in the police department and get rid of everyone who McCarthy brought with him," Hairston said. "They're all a part of the problem." 

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle reiterated her stance on McCarthy and said she looked forward to seeing what comes next. Last week, Preckwinkle said she called Emanuel to tell him she was joining members of the City Council who wanted McCarthy out.

"I have long thought that former Supt. McCarthy's policing strategies were wrong-headed and did nothing to instill trust and confidence — especially in communities of color," Preckwinkle said. "The mayor says former Supt. McCarthy's resignation is not the end but a beginning to rebuilding trust and confidence in the Chicago Police Department. I agree that his resignation is just that — a beginning. I want to see what comes next.

The Chicago Teachers Union also released a statement applauding Emanuel and calling for an elected police board. The union claimed they are not "anti-police," but they are "anti-police crime." 

Reaction from the Chicago Police Department has been quiet, but Lori Lightfoot, president of the Chicago Police Board and a former federal prosecutor, praised McCarthy's service and voiced her confidence in the police department.

Former Police Supt. Phil Cline, who now heads the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation, also praised McCarthy and thanked him for his support of the memorial foundation.

"When we first asked for Superintendent McCarthy's help on a major officer safety initiative to equip officers with new bulletproof vests, he was the first in line to support us," Cline said in a statement. "He has participated in fundraisers, attended events, donated to our cause and has worked very hard to support the hardworking, honorable men and women who make up the Chicago Police Department. We wish him nothing but the best of luck and are hopeful that he will continue to be a friend of the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation and to current and retired Chicago Police Officers."

Several activist groups who, in recent days, demanded that McCarthy resign praised the mayor's decision to force him out, but some say that Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez needs to resign, too. This group includes the activist and former gang member Wallace "Gator" Bradley, who now runs the organization United in Peace Inc. Bradley said he was pleased with McCarthy's firing, but he said that more needs to be done and that Alvarez should step down, too.

The SEIU Healthcare Illinois union went a step further in their statement, adding that Emanuel should complete the trio of resignations and step down alongside McCarthy and Alvarez.

"The answer is that Mayor Emanuel and Anita Alvarez have enabled and supported a system that has robbed Chicago of true justice," Greg Kelley, the union's vice president, said in a statement. "For too long, this mayor and the people who serve him have been more interested in finding political cover than hearing the cries of citizens, particularly people of color. Today's news is the direct result of communities fighting back and doing whatever it takes to reclaim their city. But it does not change the fundamental reality: True justice requires that Alvarez and Mayor Emanuel resign." 

Community activists also protested outside the mayor's office less than an hour after Emanuel announced he had fired McCarthy. Many of them chanted, "Cutting off the top does not do the trick." 

The demands for McCarthy's resignation proliferated in the days since the McDonald video was released. Among those who called for his resignation in the last week, in addition to Preckwinkle and members of the Black Caucus, include U.S. Senate candidate Andrea Zopp, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger.

McCarthy made it clear last week that he had no plans to resign following the backlash, saying he has "never quit anything in my life." 

Emanuel cited the need for "fresh eyes and new leadership" when he announced his decision to fire McCarthy Tuesday.

"I have a lot of loyalty to what (McCarthy has) done and him, but I have a bigger loyalty to the city of Chicago's future and the strength of that future and no one person trumps my commitment and my responsibility to the city of Chicago and its future," Emanuel said.

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