The [Thursday] Papers
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel can't win, no matter what he does when it comes to restoring public trust shattered by his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video," Fran Spielman writes for the Sun-Times.
Poor Rahm Emanuel just can't win, no matter how hard he tries! He wants to restore public trust, but no one will let him! If only there weren't so many ingrates in this town.
"That became painfully obvious on Wednesday, as the City Council's Budget and Public Safety Committees kicked off two days of public hearings to solicit input on Emanuel's plan to abolish the Independent Police Review Authority and replace it with a new, multilayered system of police accountability."
That was Spielman's "painfully obvious" takeaway. Then a bevy of stakeholders - including the mayor's own police board president and chair of his police reform task force, Lori Lightfoot - spend about 30 paragraphs explaining why the hearings are a sham.
[Lightfoot] also led a group of civic leaders demanding meaningful public input before a new system of police accountability is put in place to restore public trust.
It wouldn't have taken more than a couple phone calls over the last couple of weeks to know this was going to happen. (I can give you a couple names and numbers, Fran!)
In fact, the tenor of the remarks by Lightfoot and her allies here were quite diplomatic compared to how they've really been feeling behind the scenes.
It's not that Rahm can't win no matter what he does, it's that those trying so hard to legitimately reform the system can't win no matter what they do. Rahm is just playing politics, and those close to the internal workings know it.
And yet, Spielman reports:
"Top mayoral aides were exasperated by the knee-jerk response to Emanuel's efforts at public outreach."
Top mayoral aides feigned exasperation. This has been no knee-jerk response; these folks have working their tails off for months trying to get this right. The mayor is short-circuiting those efforts.
"[Mayoral aides] viewed it as evidence that the mayor is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't."
And there, in the 35th paragraph, is the narrative decreed by anonymous aides that Spielman picks up on as the frame for her article.
"We've been committed to a full public process on this important issue all along, and the mayor has worked to ensure that meaningful public engagement continues to be a priority in shaping the city's police accountability system," mayoral spokesman Stephen Spector wrote in an e-mailed statement.
Telling that no one from the mayor's office was available to speak by name on the record. In fact, if police reform was really the priority you'd think it would be in the wake of Laquan McDonald's murder, Rahm himself would be the first one to the microphone to respond to and talk about the council maneuverings. Instead, the mayor was busy overturning a shovelful of dirt.
Also, what Spector conveyed just isn't true. The accountability community - even amidst their own infighting - has worked diligently and in good faith even as the mayor has thrown roadblocks in their way. The mayor's office was also warned ahead of time that Wednesday's hearings hadn't been properly considered, including the fact that no subject experts, as Lightfoot notes, were called upon to provide insight and recommendations.
"The Police Accountability Task Force themselves held a series of public hearings prior to releasing their report," Spector wrote.
Disingenuous. Those hearings were to gather information about the state of the police department, its accountability system, and its relationship to the community. Those hearings were not about the specific restructuring needed to move ahead. They were not legislative hearings.
"The City Council is holding public hearings today," Spector wrote. "And there will be additional opportunities for public engagement, reflecting the importance of public input throughout the process."
Name those opportunities. Legislation is already being proffered. If you're being genuine, you don't hold city council hearings first and then pretend to listen to the public later.
In December, Spector told CNN this:
"The mayor is energized by the challenges facing the city, and he is committed to driving real and lasting solutions. As part of that process, Mayor Emanuel is taking action to restore accountability and trust in the Chicago Police Department, and he will continue to actively engage residents and community leaders to ensure their voices are heard."
Residents and community leaders are telling you that their voices aren't being heard. Stephen Spector, you are Today's Worst Person in Chicago. And only because giving that award to Rahm every day would let all his acolytes and enablers off the hook.
"For the second time in less than a month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's push to change the Chicago Police Department's oversight agency has been delayed, this time in the face of pressure for more public input.
"The latest delay came Wednesday, as the City Council opened two days of hearings - proceedings that activists derided as a sham before they even began. Community groups complained the hearings at City Hall were poorly planned and inconvenient for members of the public to attend, and that the mayor wasn't taking pains to hear from neighborhood people most impacted by police misconduct."
Better, but there are a lot of behind-the-scenes machinations that nobody seems interested in reporting on. (I'm available for hire! Already well-sourced.)
"The sharp response from community activists who say they've been misled by past failed attempts to curb police misconduct underscores the difficulty Emanuel faces in trying to cast himself as an honest broker in the push for reforms. His job is doubly hard because he's also trying to bolster his standing with rank-and-file police officers who say they're being scapegoated as they do the dangerous work of trying to stop the city's rampant street violence."
So "activists" are making Rahm's job hard - and given his interest in bolstering his standing with rank-and-file police officers, he just can't win!
Maybe the standard for judging Rahm should be actual honesty, the integrity of the process, and actual outcomes, instead of the political puzzle of maintaining a false image he can use to maintain his hold on power.
"The mayor is trying to make the case he has been engaged, and that he's already going ahead with real changes as he continues to try to deal with the fallout from the McDonald video.
"On Tuesday, Emanuel's press office sent reporters a list of 'reforms and strategies' the mayor and the Police Department have put in place the past year. Among them are establishing a Bureau of Professional Standards within the department, setting new standards for the release of videos and new protocols for responding to mental health incidents."
Not an impressive list, given his weak choice for the bureau, the inadequacy of the new video release policy, and questionable numbers when it comes to cops receiving mental health training (the numbers touted here aren't significantly different than those cited last December, or those supplied to the accountability community for years). And let's not forget Rahm's biggest move of all: Hiring exactly the wrong kind of police chief needed to "meet the moment."
Let's face it, Rahm continues to tap dance around what he sees as a political problem, not an urgent issue of justice. He seems incapable of learning - and perhaps of even actually caring.
Here's another test of Rahm's sincerity:
"A federal judge sanctioned the city once again this week, making it the sixth time since 2011 that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Law Department has been punished for not turning over potential evidence in a police misconduct lawsuit," the Tribune reports.
Is that enough to put Rahm on CPD's Strategic Subject List?
Will federal court officers start rounding up city lawyers before particularly busy weeks to prevent the publicity of high-profile legal offenses?
Can we strengthen mandatory-minimums for these repeat lawbreakers?
"[The sanctions come] less than a week after another federal judge said sanctions against the city could be in order after its attorneys failed to disclose that a police officer being sued for using a Taser on a pregnant woman also was involved in a fatal shooting in 2014 and was twice found unfit for duty.
"The ruling follows a Tribune investigation into failures in the office of Corporation Counsel Stephen Patton to turn over evidence in lawsuits involving Chicago police officers. In an analysis of nearly 450 cases alleging police misconduct since Emanuel took office, a federal judge has had to order the city to turn over potential evidence in nearly one in every five cases."
Well, sure, there are always gonna be a few bad apples. Like, in nearly one of five cases.
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Posted on July 7, 2016
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