Rahm Emanuel will not resign.
That’s what the embattled Chicago mayor told Politico in early December. Despite scores of activists and residents calling for his head over the Laquan McDonald shooting, Emanuel basically said he would “stay the course.”
In a weirdly tense moment during that same discussion, he angrily addressed his frustration with the interviewer, Mike Allen, for revealing he and his family would be headed to Cuba for their holiday vacation.
It’s not completely clear whether his anger at Allen’s question was simply about privacy or about him choosing to enjoy family time while so many other families in his city are mired in grief thanks to a corrupt and dysfunctional justice system.
Regardless, that vacation has now come to an abrupt and early end.
While Emanuel was relaxing with his family, the city he left in disarray and mismanagement claimed two more lives – 19-year-old college engineering student Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old activist and mother of 5 Bettie Jones.
Both were killed by police during a domestic disturbance on Saturday morning. Police said Jones’ death was an accident. LeGrier, they allege, was being combative at the scene. In other words, LeGrier’s death was justified in their eyes.
LeGrier and Jones’ deaths have intensified an already raging demand for reform in the Chicago Police Department. Rahm Emanuel, for all his foot dragging, indecisiveness and lack of leadership, now finds himself in a politically unenviable position: Either begin fixing the police or begin fixing his resignation.
And that is no easy position for any mayor to find himself in.
Almost a year ago today, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio had the city’s entire police force publicly turning their backs on him. They believed that his comments about police reform and acknowledging the existence of racism in the force was a betrayal to the ‘rank and file’ who put their lives on the line everyday.
Sadly, this stance is shared by many police union heads across the country. For many, to acknowledge that racism and bias exists within some departments and to demand accountability for any misconduct has become a fictional ‘war on police.’
Towards the end of 2014 in New York City, arrests across all 5 boroughs plummeted. Multiple reports described the decline in police activity as a “deliberate.” Critics, including the city’s mayor, were making the officers upset.
So, in some respects, they stopped doing their jobs.
The NYPD is the largest police department in America, and every mayor in the country (including Rahm Emanuel) saw – and feared – that fraction occurring in their own city.
And that is why Rahm Emanuel has relied so heavily on ‘band-aid governing.’
Emanuel, like the many mayors who preceded him, decided to apply band-aids to the gushing wounds of excessive force and summary executions in order to keep everyone happy while maintaining his career.
After Laquan McDonald was murdered, he offered his condolences and a settlement to his family while also organizing meetings to discuss tactical reform. The meetings were toothless and the settlement would not correctly address the decades-long scourge of excessive force, but they were measures that could buy Emanuel some time to be re-elected – which he was.
But after the McDonald tape was released and the details of the year-long coverup come to light, Mayor Emanuel is quickly being stripped of his ability to apply band-aid solutions on these deep and fresh wounds.,
Earlier this week, Emanuel released a statement:
This afternoon I directed the new Acting Chief Administrator of the Independent Police Review Authority and the Interim Superintendent of Police to meet with each other as soon as possible to review the Crisis Intervention Team training, around how officers respond to mental health crisis calls.
Once again, Emanuel has reverted to flowery language and mediocre solutions as his way of appearing to deliver reform, but that simply won’t be enough. Police officers in his city do not simply have a ‘training oversight’ problem, or even a bad apples problem – they have a bad basket problem that requires more than removing a few officers or improving some programs.
It requires deep structural changes that could possibly change the entire face of the Chicago Police Department.
On Wednesday, Emanuel tried to address his critics by beefing up his response. He ordered the number of non-lethal weapons (stun guns, tasers) in the department to be doubled to 1400. He suggested there would be tweaks to the officer’s standard “conflict training,” de-emphasizing the use of lethal force.
In order to understand why these changes (and more) are so necessary, it should be stressed that corruption and racial bias amongst the Chicago Police is neither new nor is it simply isolated to a few individuals.
This is the same department that generations of residents and activists feel executed Fred Hampton, lied about it, got caught lying about it, and had to pay the family millions.
This is the same department that employed former detective Jon Burge. Burge oversaw the torture and false confessions of hundreds of black men throughout the city from 1972 to 1991, by using harsh tactics such as subjecting men to games of Russian roulette as well as electrocuting their testicles.
This is the department that some nationwide activists have already declared to be the “most corrupt“ in the country.
While Rahm Emanuel can not be blamed for the corruption that happened before he was elected to office, he must accept responsibility for it continuing under his leadership.
This brutal situation will not disappear any time soon, and the fact that the police could “accidentally” murder a 55-year-old woman in such a tense atmosphere shows that the CPD and the IPRA are simply ineffective.
If Rahm Emanuel wants to save his job and have any semblance of a future, he must commit to a large structural reshaping of the entire force. And if he is too afraid to make those changes, fearing he may end up in a De Blasio-like situation, he might as well resign now.
His city cannot stand under the weight of another lifeless, unarmed black body taken wantonly by police.
And they won’t.