Did the Chicago Police Department knowingly cover up the shooting of Laquan McDonald, and if so, how many officers, lieutenants and detectives will be fired?
Pressure is mounting on Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson to release the findings of a report into the matter by Chicago Inspector General Joe Ferguson.
This report that is said to be scathing has been on Johnson’s desk for more than two weeks now. We’re told Johnson is still reviewing it and has not yet decided what action to take. But other news reports have indicated it recommends the firing of at least 10 Chicago Police Department officials who either falsified witness statements on the shooting of McDonald by Officer Jason Van Dyke, or signed off on those falsified statements.
This as the man who took over as interim superintendent in the wake of the scandal’s fallout, John Escalante, announced Tuesday he will retire from the force to take a position as chief of police at Northeastern Illinois University. Escalante was chief of detectives at the time of the McDonald shooting and served as interim superintendent from December until March, when he was passed over for the permanent job in favor of Johnson. While on the job, Escalante tried to mandate the use of body cameras and instituted new de-escalation training.
Of his colleague, Johnson said Tuesday:
“I have bittersweet emotions on John's decision to accept this incredible opportunity as our Police Department will lose a very dedicated and intelligent crime fighter who cares deeply about the people and safety of our city.”
The inspector general’s report was written at the request of the Independent Police Review Authority. This is separate from the ongoing criminal case against Van Dyke and the federal probe into the McDonald shooting.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he would defer to Johnson on the report.
“I don’t have much to say on the particular issue until Eddie makes his decision,” Emanuel said. “He’ll make that decision and I’ll back that decision up.”
Later in his remarks, the mayor said, “We have to work together bringing that level of transparency, but also a new level of accountability throughout the system.” The mayor then walked away as reporters shouted questions to him, asking why he wasn’t recommending the firing of more police officers and why the inspector general’s report has yet to go public.
Meanwhile, Ald. Anthony Beale from the Roseland neighborhood said he believes Johnson should act now, and act with a heavy hand to terminate all of the officers that Ferguson has recommended for such action.
“If anyone falsified paperwork, falsified their testimony on that paperwork, anyone who signed off on something they shouldn’t have signed off on, needs to be terminated immediately, without question,” Beale said. “If we’re going to rebuild trust, we can’t have a soft hand on the police who have done wrong and are trying to cover up.”
Also on Tuesday, community leaders including Father Michael Pfleger and Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. hit the police department on another front – they are calling on the city to allow community leaders to be involved in the negotiation of a new police contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. They say that use of force policies and discipline standards need to be stricter.
Pfleger says the department has not yet achieved transparency in the wake of the McDonald shooting.
“Until there is punishment, until there is discipline, until there is firing, until there is jail time, you send a message saying ‘It’s OK, we got you,’” Pfleger said.
This follows the news Monday of the retirement of CPD Deputy Chief David McNaughton, who signed off on the McDonald reports.
The superintendent can’t currently fire police officers. He can only recommend them for termination – they then would have to go to the Police Board for a series of hearings before the board makes the final decision.
Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz
Aug. 15: The death toll after another weekend includes the son of a Chicago police officer. Dean Angelo joins us to discuss combating violence and ongoing efforts at police reform.
Aug. 1: Superintendent Eddie Johnson says his department has so far made 1,900 gun arrests in 2016, a 7-percent increase over the first seven months of 2015.
Find all "Chicago Tonight" stories on the shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.