The [Wednesday] Papers
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel will take the rare step Wednesday of delivering a speech on Chicago's woeful police misconduct record to the City Council, which has approved hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements for victims of police brutality while demanding little change in how the department operates," the Tribune reports.
Finally, a chance to hear what the mayor has to say about all this! And without a media filter! #MakeItStop
"The City Council's toothless approach on Chicago's long history of police corruption reflects the top-down nature of how things run at City Hall - the mayor, whether it be Emanuel or his predecessor Richard M. Daley, has called the shots and the aldermen follow suit with little, if any, resistance.
"Since 2004, Emanuel and Daley's administrations have recommended the City Council approve scores of settlements for police shootings and other wrongdoing, totaling more than $500 million in payments to victims and their families, officials say. And while they have rubber-stamped those checks in recent years, aldermen have shown little initiative to take legislative action on police reforms."
"An analysis to be released Tuesday by the Chicago Justice Project, a nonprofit focused on increasing access to criminal justice data, shows that 40 percent of the 148 agenda items considered from 2006 through 2009 by the Council's Committee on Police and Fire concerned the donation of old equipment, mostly police and fire vehicles, to communities in Iraq, Mexico and elsewhere," Mick Dumke reported for the Chicago News Cooperative/NewYork Times in 2010.
In contrast, just 1 percent had anything to do with crime or violence.
"Tracy Siska, the executive director of the Chicago Justice Project, said the committee should hold regular meetings to review police performance."
I would also suggest that police brutality settlements go through the committee that is supposed to provide oversight of the police department and not just Ed Burke's finance committee, which is supposed to simply approve cutting the checks. Which I suppose is what they simply do.
"City Hall has been shaken in the past two weeks since a Cook County judge ordered Emanuel to release a video showing the police shooting of Laquan McDonald and Cook County prosecutors charged officer Jason Van Dyke with murder for shooting the African-American teenager 16 times. The fallout has left plenty of aldermen pointing their fingers at the mayor's fifth-floor office, with little mention of their own roles in the lack of police oversight.
"Ald. Carrie Austin, Emanuel's City Council Budget Committee chairwoman, said the mayor needs to use his speech to make apologies.
"Say 'I'm sorry,'" said Austin, 34th. "'I'm sorry' to us, the African-American community, that these things have occurred and everybody looked the other way."
"But many aldermen have looked the other way too."
Austin was Daley's budget committee chair and she's Rahm's budget committee chair. Similarly, Burke was Daley's finance committee chair and he's Rahm's finance committee chair. And Patrick O'Connor was Daley's floor leader and is Rahm's floor leader.
"The City Council approved the payment to the McDonald family on the same day it signed off on another settlement that drew far more attention - the creation of a $5.5 million reparations fund for dozens of torture victims connected to former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his so-called midnight crew of rogue detectives."
Choose Chicago: Magic Happens Here.
Also that day at the city council, the Tribune notes in an editorial (which I'll get to in a minute):
"[T]hey had another high-profile case on the docket that morning: Nanci Koschman, the mother of David Koschman, who had died in 2004. Koschman died following a fistfight with Richard Vanecko, a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. That case also smelled of a cover-up within the Police Department. Nanci Koschman got a settlement approved by the City Council that day for $250,000."
Burge, Koschman and McDonald on the same day.
"West Side Ald. Emma Mitts, 37th, said she has apologized to her constituents for not doing more due diligence on the McDonald case. Mitts said she was 'really just as shocked as everyone when we got briefed on' the McDonald video shortly before Emanuel publicly released it.
"They told us about it and said 'You voted for it,' and I'm like, 'Voted for what?'" Mitts said.
Let's look at the transcript again of the Finance Committee approving of the settlement and sending it along to the full City Council, where it was approved without discussion.
City attorney Stephen Patton: Words, words, words.
Finance Committee: Aye.
"So I had to research," Mitts said and I apologized for that, but at the same time our duty is to oversee the taxpayers.
That's true, and to that end it appears the city and the council did a good job cheaping out the McDonald family. Bravo.
Look, in all seriousness, there is a price that we all pay every day for a rubber-stamp city council. If Rahm really wants to "own" this mess, and reform the city's practices, he'll set the council free. That's also something his task force could recommend - and I don't just mean pretty words about stronger council oversight. The whole damn system of putting the council under the mayor's control and destroying the separation of powers is literally killing us - to further the egos and ambitions of those who occupy the Fifth Floor.
"Emanuel is expected to use his speech at 9 a.m. Wednesday to reframe his administration's handling of police misconduct. In announcing he had fired former police Superintendent Garry McCarthy last week, Emanuel announced he was creating a Police Accountability Task Force to recommend reforms.
"But his words Wednesday will be directed at 50 council members who have heard him call for such reforms in the past and done little to hold him to it."
Now, to that Trib editorial: Yes, the city council blew it. But the Trib lays it on a bit thick, ignoring the fact that the mayor it endorsed twice controls the city council even more than Daley did.
Beyond that, this isn't really true:
"[T]he transcripts don't lie. Patton gave aldermen substantial information about what happened the night of McDonald's death."
I'm not giving the aldermen a pass, but what Patton gave the aldermen was a dry recitation of "what their lawyers say vs. what the police say."
The shooting office contends, as I understand it, that Mr. McDonald was moving toward him. He was in fear of his life. Mr. McDonald was only one car width, you know, away, one lane on Pulaski, 10, 15 feet.
At no time did Patton say that he had seen the video - and that there was no ambiguity about the case. Instead, he repeatedly said that, were the family to file a lawsuit, "they will argue that the videotape supports their version of events." He never said "and they'd be right."
Patton never clearly said that what the family contended was 100 percent correct - though he did tell the aldermen that his office had successfully negotiated the family's original ask of $16 million down to $5 million, which tends to make one think the family's claims were in doubt. It's no wonder it may have seemed like "make it go away" money to aldermen - just $5 million for a kid shot 16 times for no reason?
"We were led to believe there was something fuzzy or something questionable that could be interpreted a different way than it was," Ald. Howard Brookins said.
"We were misled. We were misled in terms of whether or not this particular tape showed some gray area where it needed to be investigated for all this period of time."
True. If the family's claims were correct, why was the case still under investigation six months later? That's usually a slow walk to nothing, not a burgeoning probe into something.
Unfortunately, that Brookins quote comes from a Fran Spielman article in which she claims Patton described the case "in painstaking detail."
Which led Rich Miller on his Capitol Fax blog to conclude that if you read Spielman's article, "you'll see that the alderm[e]n who claimed they were deliberately misled by the mayor's office about the shooting aren't really telling the truth." Really?
"Rather than 'misleading' aldermen, Patton played it right down the middle. The only thing he did not tell aldermen is that he had seen the tape himself and could confirm the McDonald family's version."
That's the only thing he didn't tell aldermen! Instead, he played it right down the middle!
How is that not misleading? He played it he-said, she-said, instead of telling alderman that the proof was overwhelming that one side was lying its ass off.
"We were sitting there and probably had weird looks on [our] faces, it was almost like he was dancing this fine line," Ald. Scott Waguespack told Politico.
"Waguespack said the transcript doesn't show the full picture of the meeting, which included side conversations with other attorneys."
As I've previously written, it was in these side conversations that aldermen felt they were misled by city attorneys.
"Patton went on to explain to incredulous aldermen why the $5 million settlement was in the 'best interests' of Chicago taxpayers after the family initially demanded $16 million," Spielman writes.
[Burke] added, "It would appear that, had the Taser been available in this case, maybe the taxpayers wouldn't be shelling out $5 million."
Oh, and a kid wouldn't be dead.
I think it was Noam Chomsky who once said you can always learn a reporter's true feelings about a story by looking at what quote they choose to end it with.
"Before the full council voted, Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st, objected to a provision in the settlement that would keep the video secret," that Trib editorial notes.
He called the settlement "hush money" and demanded that the video be shown to the public. He got nowhere. In the end, he joined in the unanimous vote to approve the $5 million payout.
True. But Brookins did more than that.
"The chairman of the City Council's Black Caucus on Tuesday demanded the release of a potentially incendiary video showing a Chicago Police officer firing 16 shots into the body of slain African-American teenager Laquan McDonald," Spielman reported at the time. (Hey, like Anita Alvarez, sometimes she gets it right.)
"Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) acknowledged that the dashboard camera video of one Chicago Police officer unleashing the barrage of gunfire that killed McDonald, 17, on Oct. 20, 2014 as at least five other responding officers exercised restraint would 'really inflame the passions of the community-at-large.'
"But, Brookins said that's the price that must be paid if the Chicago Police Department is ever going to confront and move beyond the disparate treatment of African-American men by a 'handful' of rogue officers that's become a systemic problem for police across the nation."
That was eight months ago; how right was he?
Tl; dr: The rubber stamp city council was misled.
Mass Shootings A Bad Way To Understand Gun Violence
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I haven't watched the WTTW interview yet, but from what I've seen on Twitter, it was just about what I expected. More on that later.
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Posted on December 9, 2015
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