Fired police chief praised by Trump runs for mayor
Laquan McDonald memorial, Chicago, November 2015. Wikimedia Commons, public domain

CHICAGO – In a bizarre twist of events, the former Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced he will be running in the 2019 Chicago Mayoral race. McCarthy was sacked in 2015 by the current Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, after dashcam footage from the death of Laquan McDonald surfaced. Alongside the previous Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, McCarthy was one of two major figureheads who lost their jobs as a result of the mishandled case.

Many believed that McCarthy, Alvarez, and Emanuel, were all equally responsible for the “cover up” of the dashcam footage. In the days following the video release, demonstrators coined the chant “16 shots and a coverup” in their cries for accountability against the city.

McCarthy admitted in a 2015 interview that he knew of the dashcam footage a couple of days after the shooting occured. It wasn’t until freelance journalist Brandon Smith sued the City of Chicago that the McDonald video went public. When asked by CBS 2 Chicago local correspondents what McCarthy did after discovering the footage, the then Chief of Police said he immediately stripped the officer of his duties, but that his hands were otherwise tied. “I couldn’t fire him. I couldn’t put him in a ‘no pay’ status. I couldn’t discipline him,” McCarthy stated, “That’s the law.”

Since he announced for mayor, McCarthy has taken to several media platforms to talk about his reasons for joining the race. Rahm’s former right hand man claims that it has nothing to do with Rahm Emanuel, and that he would be running even if Emanuel wasn’t. “We can’t lift this city up if our citizens don’t trust their mayor to do what’s right” says McCarthy in his official campaign video, “The mayor has promised results for years, but he’s failed over and over again.”

The campaign website features a video of McCarthy discussing his track record as Police Superintendent, claiming that he helped bring down Chicago crime rates to historically low numbers. It also includes footage of McCarthy chatting with a black woman on a park bench, laughing with a Latino family on their front porch, and a number of other family-friendly photo ops that assured viewers of his “working class” roots.

It’s difficult, however, to separate McCarthy from his controversial role in the aftermath of the Laquan McDonald shooting. McCarthy has repeatedly claimed that he unfairly took the fall in the city’s handling of the black teenager’s death. When asked what he would do to address police accountability procedures more effectively, McCarthy said he would give the superintendent more authority. “In the Laquan McDonald case, the only thing I could do was put him on paid desk duty,” said McCarthy in an ABC7 interview “I was not in charge of the discipline system of the Chicago Police Department, which gave me accountability without authority.”

This “solution” seems counterintuitive to the demands being made by the Chicago community. Field organizers from the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR) have continuously advocated for the creation of a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC). The ordinance calls for more community control in police misconduct investigations and suggests having CPAC replace the current Police Board and the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA). Members would be directly elected by people in the community in each separate police district. This would eliminate concerns about “insider” politics and bias within police criminal investigations. This plan is a far cry from what McCarthy deems to be a more viable alternative of increasing the authority police officials have in certain scenarios.

Despite the election still being over a year away, Mayor Emanuel has already released an attack ad in response to McCarthy’s announcement. Clips of Trump praising McCarthy are posted on Emanuel’s official Facebook page, as the mayor readies himself to face off against his former employee. McCarthy, on the other hand, continues to push forward in his campaign and could be a tough contender as the mayoral race nears.



Michelle Zacarias
Michelle Zacarias

Michelle Zacarias was a staff writer at People's World. A graduate of the Univ. of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Zacarias invested her time in raising awareness on issues of social justice and equality. Michelle self identifies as multi-marginalized: as a Latina, a woman of color and a person with disabilities.