First, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to bury the video of Laquan McDonald’s shooting. Then he stalled, successfully pushing it past the April election where he won a second term. Then he tried some more to bury it. When he lost that battle and the video was released, he fired his police chief. Then he fired the head of the body in charge of the Independent Police Review Authority, which is charged with handling complaints about officers but has been attacked as unwilling to seriously discipline cops.
But Emanuel is still feeling the heat, including calls for his resignation. So on Wednesday, he gave a 40-minute speech to the City Council, apologizing for McDonald’s death and vowing changes. (Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting, the first such charge for an on-duty Chicago cop in decades.)
“If we’re going to fix it, I want you to understand it’s my responsibility with you," Emanuel said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “But if we’re also going to begin the healing process, the first step in that journey is my step, and I’m sorry.”
He also said, “Nothing, nothing can excuse what happened to Laquan McDonald.” Emanuel described a lunch with young men who’d been in trouble with the law:
So I asked them, tell me the one thing I need to know. And rather than tell me something, one young man asked me a simple question that gets to the core of what we're talking about. He said, “Do you think the police would ever treat you the way they treat me?” And the answer is no, and that’s wrong. And that has to change in this city. That has to come to an end and end now. No citizen is a second-class citizen in the city of Chicago. If my children are treated one way, every child is treated the same way.
Protesters chanted outside as Emanuel spoke. Aldermen’s reaction to the speech were mixed, the Tribune reported. Emanuel critics remained critical; his allies, meanwhile, seemed subdued, noting the test will be what sort of reforms Emanuel is willing and able to produce. Even that is a vast shift from just a few months ago. In his first term, even as citizen frustrations grew with the mayor’s administration, the council had become an almost-automatic rubber stamp for his ambitious plans for the Windy City.