Attorney for Chicago officer may seek change of venue

24 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Federal civil rights probe of Chicago police posts phone and email, invites public input.

A Cook County grand jury indicted Jason Van Dyke on six counts of murder and one count of official misconduct on Tuesday, three weeks after prosecutors filed the original murder charge against him.

CHICAGO (AP) — The latest developments in the fallout from fatal police shootings in Chicago and a federal civil rights investigation into the city’s police department (all times local): An attorney for a white Chicago police officer charged with murder in the shooting of a black teenager says he is considering asking for a change of venue after comments Mayor Rahm Emanuel made about his client. Department of Justice wants Chicago to know exactly how to submit complaints about the Chicago Police Department in the wake of the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video and has distributed those details to community leaders. With labels such as “false tears,” “injustice” and “cover-ups,” the boxes were meant to be Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s, ready to go his hoped-for moving day. Van Dyke, who was freed on $1.5 million bail on Nov. 30, after spending six nights in jail before a judge reviewed video of the shooting, was scheduled to go before a judge at noon Friday.

Sabina Church, said Thursday that he and about 15 others were given copies in a meeting held Wednesday with attorneys from the department’s civil rights division, and are spreading the word. “I want as many people as possible in Chicago to use it,” he said. “We need to make sure that they hear from everybody in the community, and the best way to do that is for people to tell their story . . . The Nov. 24 release of police dashcam video of a white officer gunning down black teenager Laquan McDonald last year has caused political fallout dwarfing previous outrages against Emanuel, including ones over the closing of almost 50 public schools, the shuttering of public mental health clinics and the privatization of city services. Hours later, the city released police dashboard camera video showing Van Dyke shooting McDonald 16 times on the night of Oct. 20, 2014, as McDonald was walking away from police. He was forced into a runoff election with upstart progressive candidate Jesús “Chuy” García and then beat Garcia by a margin of only 12 percentage points despite a massive fundraising advantage.

A bill has been introduced in the state legislature that would establish procedures for a recall election if 15 percent of the number of voters in the last mayoral election sign a petition — in this case, about 86,000 people. When Garry McCarthy resigned as police superintendent on Dec. 1, Emanuel said that McCarthy could no longer lead because he had lost the public’s confidence and trust. The one thing that might drive a resignation is hard evidence that Emanuel orchestrated keeping the video hidden until after the election, in part by negotiating a $5 million settlement with McDonald’s family, which was announced and approved by the City Council just days after the election. Chicagoans have a long and curious history of tolerating and even rewarding corruption, neglect and cover-ups from their leaders, especially where police abuse is concerned. There’s a slim chance that Chicago will become a model for police accountability and transparency and that Emanuel will embrace the challenge of aggressively reforming a department that was known for racism, brutality and impunity long before he took office.

Even as Emanuel, the son of a civil rights activist, closed schools in black neighborhoods and slashed city jobs held largely by black people, he has seemed to relish portraying himself as a champion of the black community. That business will include opening a front in his ongoing battle with the Chicago Teachers Union, whose members recently voted overwhelmingly to support a strike early next year. His war with the teachers — including a 2012 strike that the teachers were widely seen as winning — has a major racial component, since a large percentage of public school teachers and students are black.

The teachers will surely invoke the McDonald shooting to bolster their argument that Emanuel is a 1 percent mayor who slashes school spending and neglects poor neighborhoods while selling off the schools and other pieces of the city to his friends in high finance. Then there’s the other scandal that was seemingly kept under wraps until just a week after the April election — corruption by Emanuel’s handpicked schools CEO, Barbara Byrd Bennett.

A federal investigation was announced April 15, and then Byrd Bennett resigned and pleaded guilty to charges that she took up to $2.3 million in kickbacks for steering more than $23 million in no-bid contracts to a principal training academy co-owned by a reported adviser to the Emanuel administration. But this is politics, and he is a consummate politician, so it’s probably safe to assume that he will do only what his constituents and other politicians force him to do. Daley, sailed to re-election multiple times even as it became clear that under his watch, Chicago police perpetrated and oversaw the systematic torture of black men, leading to multiple wrongful and questionable convictions, including some that took place while Daley was a state’s attorney. So will Chicago residents and City Council members force Emanuel to become more responsive and transparent, not only on policing but also on education, labor, finance and services? Kari Lydersen is a Chicago journalist and the author of “Mayor 1%: Rahm Emanuel and the Rise of Chicago’s 99%.” She is a leader of the Social Justice News Nexus reporting fellowship at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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