Rahm Emanuel

‘We Also Must Bear Responsibility': Black Caucus Apologizes for Handling of Laquan McDonald Case

The press conference was held hours after Mayor Rahm Emanuel public apologized for the city's handling of the case

Hours after Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered an emotional mea culpa over the handling of the Laquan McDonald case, the City Council's Black Caucus offered an apology of their own for their involvement in approving the $5 million settlement to McDonald's family without asking more questions about the case.

"We, as the Black Caucus, stand today to acknowledge that we also must bear responsibility for being less vigilant in the review of this case and other complaints of police misconduct that unfortunately occur far too often in the city of Chicago," said Ald. Roderick Sawyer, chairman of the Black Caucus, at a press conference Wednesday.

Sawyer added that the "breakdown of the system" in the McDonald case stemmed from racism.

Earlier in the day, Emanuel addressed the City Council prior to their meeting and publicly apologized for the shooting death of 17-year-old McDonald last year. He criticized what he called decades of city police corruption as well as the "shoot first and ask questions later" gun epidemic in the United States.

"I am the mayor," Emanuel said. "As I said the other day, I own it. I take responsibility for what happened because it happened on my watch. ... If we are going to fix it I want you to understand it's my responsibility." 

Sawyer applauded Emanuel for his apology and said the Black Caucus "owned" their responsibility, too, but he also said direct action needs to follow the apologies. He then outlined seven "action steps" he said the Black Caucus will recommend to the full council in the form of a resolution.

The first point in the resolution says Chicago police officers "must stop shooting people in the back," Sawyer said. The rest of the points deal with the way police shootings are handled after they occur.

Sawyer asked that in the future City Council members will be shown any video evidence that exists in a police-involved shooting case before the council votes on approving a settlement. He also proposed that any police officers who file false reports be prosecuted.

The aldermen also took a shot at Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. One of the points on their resolution asks that a special prosecutor be brought in for every police-involved shooting case in response to the public outcry for the way Alvarez handled the McDonald case.

"We have no faith in State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office to handle these cases appropriately at this point," Sawyer said.

The final point in the aldermen's resolution concerns the hiring of a replacement for former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy, whom Emanuel fired a week after the release of the dashcam video showing the fatal shooting of McDonald. Sawyer said the mayor should give "full and serious consideration" to hiring an African-American superintendent.

The Black Caucus was vocal about asking the mayor to fire McCarthy even before the dashcam video was released in late November. The group gathered in October to demand McCarthy's resignation for his handling of gun violence in Chicago. They gathered for a second time following the release of the McDonald video to renew their call for McCarthy's removal.

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