More than a month after asking Superintendent Garry McCarthy to resign, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking yet another important step to reform the city’s police department.
Emanuel has tapped Charles Ramsey, one of the United States’ most high-profile names in law enforcement, to guide the Chicago Police Department on civil rights issues.
The move comes in the wake of the Octobert 2014 death of black teenager Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by a white cop Officer Jason van Dyke. Footage of the shooting was released last December and it triggered mass protests against police brutality in the city with people asking the authorities as to why it took them over a year to make the video public.
Emanuel “took responsibility” for McDonald’s death but only after an email dump released earlier this month revealed that the mayor ordered the burial of the dashcam footage of the shooting. The new evidence prompted already outraged protesters to call for his resignation.
However, instead of stepping down, Emanuel asked McCarthy to leave.
And now, in a move to salvage the city’s police force’s reputation — and his own — Emanuel asked Ramsey to serve as a senior advisor to the CPD.
Ramsey has had a successful policing career spanning nearly 50 years, with experience heading both Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia's police forces. But whether or not he’ll be able to save Chicago is something that only time will tell. He introduced various progressive policies during his tenure as Philadelphia’s police commissioner, including one proposal to identify police officers involved in a shooting within 72 hours.
But even after a dramatic reduction in deaths by police shootings in Philadelphia under Ramsey, the mistrust between the black population of the city and the police still remains. And it’s the same problem that needs to be solved in Chicago.
McDonald’s killing was one of the many cases of excessive use of force by mainly white police officers against people of color. There is a general impression among Chicagoans that police misconduct often goes unpunished which has created distrust between the cops and the people of the city.
Even with someone like Ramsey leading the CPD, it’s going to take years to restore the city’s faith in the police department.