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The [Monday] Papers

I don't recall ever following as fast a moving news story with as many moving parts as the events surrounding the Laquan McDonald case since these last two weeks.

Just this morning, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would conduct a pattern-and-practices investigation of the Chicago Police Department, the CPD's chief of detectives resigned, and Anita Alvarez announced that her office would bring no charges against a Chicago police officer in the related-by-nature case of Ronnie Johnson. Last night, Rahm fired his hand-picked chief of the Independent Police Review Authority.

Rahm has a press conference scheduled for 3 p.m. today; he has also announced he will deliver a special message to the city council at its Wednesday meeting.

I still have material I want to write up from the Black Friday protests, but how long ago goes that seem now?


Some of you may recall that last year a wrote a "Week in Juvenile Justice" column for The Chicago Bureau. The bureau has rebranded itself as The Youth Project and I returned to its digital pages last night with a piece about changing the culture around policing.

Here's what I mean by that: Site editor Eric Ferkenhoff asked me if and how the DOJ review may change the CPD's culture. My answer was simply that I wasn't sure, and I wasn't expert enough to venture a guess - at least without a ton of research. What Eric did spur me to think about, though, was how we might change the culture around policing while we wait for the Justice Department.

What I mean by that is changing how we as citizens - and as members of the media for those of us who are - can change our relationship to the police in a beneficial way, as well as how police officers can do the same with us. I understand that we need drastic, systemic changes. I hope those will come. But in the meantime, we can all do a better job in our everyday interactions and responsibilities. So please give it a read, comment, and share widely.

(I was inspired to write this in part by something I've mentioned before: a school bullyproofing project I once reported on for USA Weekend that focuses not on the behavior of the bully but on the behavior of everyone else. The idea is that the best way to prevent, stop or at least respond to bullying is to create a community that doesn't tolerate it, sticks up for victims, and doesn't reward the bully with the kind of attention they seek. That's how you change a culture into one in which "bad apples" cannot thrive. Systemic issues are another issue, but aiding a culture change this way helps.)


Crain's picked up my weekend column about Rahm's "messaging" in the Laquan McDonald case, and complicity of the locals' Op-ed pages in that cynical exercise. Please give that read too, comment and share widely.

I made a few slight tweaks to that column since I first pushed the button on it that I want to call your attention to (Crain's has the final version).

These officers clearly lied, and yet they have remained on the streets in their jobs. This alone would have been reason enough to fire [Garry] McCarthy, unless he was truly hampered by the union and the feds.

I added the italicized part because I've read and gathered through my own conversations conflicting information about just what powers McCarthy had in this regard. For example, I'm not sure McCarthy could have simply suspended those officers without a ruling from IPRA per the union contract. And I don't think a ruling from IPRA was possible once they turned all their information over to the feds. So his hands may have truly been tied. (If anyone can clear this up, let me know. I know there is some language in state law that possibly indicates otherwise.) It was different with Jason Van Dyke, because the union contract allows for (or mandates) that an officer under a shooting investigation can (or must) be put on desk duty until the case is resolved. And once charged, as I understand it, a police chief can then move to fire the officer. I say "move to fire the officer" because the police chief ultimately has no authority to do anything other than recommend a firing to the Police Board.


"Within nine days of that shooting the city collected all evidence in the case, including the dash-cam video, and turned it over to prosecutors. No one could have predicted that it would take more than a year to finish the probe. It was just as likely that charges would be filed during the campaign, in which case the video would have become public before the election."

Not likely. The shooting was quickly determined to be justified by the police; from there it goes to the Independent Police Review Authority, which is not independent, by the way; they investigate all police-involved shootings - and they take their sweet time. At such point that IPRA believes a case may become criminal, it turns its materials over to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and/or the U.S. Attorney's Office. Rahm would have you believe that within nine days of the shooting, the city had turned over all evidence to prosecutors in a case against Jason Van Dyke. That simply connotes a false impression that the city was speedily moving against an officer instead of doing what they always do.

I altered the italicized sentence from "This is simply not true" to be clearer about what I was asserting wasn't true. It's entirely possible that IPRA turned over its materials to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and/or the U.S. Attorney's Office within nine days, though that seems unusually quick to me. But that's routine business; once IPRA concludes that its investigation might warrant a criminal case, it bows out. Where Rahm obfuscates the matter is that A) the city certainly had not gathered "all the evidence" in the case within nine days, given that the state's attorney's office has done the real investigation, and B) IPRA simply moving the case on, as it is required to do, is not evidence of a good-faith effort by the city, which IPRA is supposed to be independent of in the first place. In other words, there's nothing special here that the city did, and certainly not under Rahm's leadership. As we've learned, the city was working elsewhere - like in the city council and court - to settle with the family and bury the video.


What Rahm leaves out: The lawyers for Laquan's family reportedly approached the city after obtaining a copy of the video through a probate subpoena. (A whistleblower also informed local journalist Jamie Kalven of the video's existence.)

I rewrote this part because of some confusion between two separate paths the video traveled. As I understand it, lawyers for the family were able to subpoena the video as part of probate proceedings; once seeing it, they approached the city about a settlement. Kalven, working with independent journalist Brandon Smith, was told about the video's existence from a whistleblower, as I understand it, leading to the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that jarred the video loose despite the settlement agreement between the city and the McDonald family. What I'm still not clear on, because of conflicting reporting, is whether the settlement agreement allowed for the video to be released once the investigation was complete. One report in a major national newspaper said so, but the family seemed to believe otherwise, to my reading of the matter. It would be a matter of public interest for the settlement to be released, in my view.


I've read conflicting reporting about just when Alvarez brought the feds into her investigation - or even whether they inserted themselves on their own accord. I'm working to get answers on that. By tomorrow, though, that might be as outdated as the circumstances surrounding the arrest and release of Malcolm London, which I'm still interested in. How long ago was that, now? Seems like forever.


The Political Odds
Updated to reflect recent developments.

SportsMonday: Bereft Bears Blow It
Who to blame.

The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Meg Myers, Silversun Pickups, The Arcs, Boss Fight, Polyphia, Stick To Your Guns, Starset, Another Lost Year, Saint Ansonia, The Verve Pipe, August Burns Red, and Bastille The Draw.





A sampling.






The Beachwood Tip Line: Sweatbox.


Posted on December 7, 2015

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BOOKS - All About Poop.


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