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Chicago Mayor Fires City's Top Cop In Wake Of Laquan McDonald Criticism

3 hours 5 min ago

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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Police Department's top cop has been fired. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday that he had formally asked for the resignation of Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who Emanuel hand-picked as the city's top cop in 2011.

The 56-year-old officer has faced harsh criticism for his handling of the high-profile shooting of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager shot 16 times in 2014 by a Chicago police officer.

Emanuel praised McCarthy Tuesday as an "excellent leader" throughout his tenure, but said his appointee was now "a distraction." The mayor said the city's police leadership had been "shaken." 

"I have a lot support and confidence in the work and results he has done," Emanuel said of the officer. "But our goal is to build the trust and confidence with the public."

"At this point -- in this juncture in the city -- he has become an issue rather than dealing with the issue," he said.

Chief John Escalante, McCarthy’s deputy, will serve as police commissioner until a new superintendent is appointed. 

Last Tuesday, McCarthy and Emanuel appeared in a joint press conference ahead of the release of damning dashcam footage from the 2014 shooting. The video shows the officer, Jason Van Dyke, gunning down the teen in the middle of the street as he walks away from police. Both the department and the mayor's office had tried to keep the recording from going public. 

Sup McCarthy called to City Hall, left 5th floor approx 8 am, accdg to source "not happy" #RahmChicago #LaquanMcDonald

— Mary Ann Ahern (@MaryAnnAhernNBC) December 1, 2015

Earlier Tuesday, McCarthy appeared on NBC Chicago for an in-person interview in which he claimed responsibility for the now widely discredited police account after McDonald's 2014 death.

“The initial press release was mistaken, no two ways about it,” McCarthy told NBC. “I guess that’s my fault.”

Hours later, the normally collected mayor appeared nervous throughout the press conference, stammering over his prepared remarks before facing a barrage of questions from reporters, who probed into a suspected political agenda behind McCarthy's ouster.

The embattled mayor, who is facing calls for his own resignation, had scheduled the conference to announce the city's new police accountability task force. But after announcing McCarthy's departure midway through, reporters asked if the news was a sign of Emanuel's leadership becoming a "distraction" as well.

Emanuel said his decision to let McCarthy go was an example of his accountability as mayor, but exempted himself from his own call for "fresh eyes and new leadership."

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16 Illinois Schools Bestowed "Blue Ribbon" Award in 2015

4 hours 1 min ago
Sixteen Illinois schools are being recognized as outstanding by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Department's Blue Ribbon Schools program awards public and private elementary, middle and high schools for academic excellence and improvement in closing the gap between privileged and underprivileged students.

Schools can qualify by being "high performing" or "achievement gap closing."

All Illinois schools qualified by passing the performance qualifications.

They had to score in the top 15 percent of all schools in the state in reading and math. All of the groups within the school- including lower income students- had to be in the top 40 percent of schools. High schools had to maintain a graduation rate in the top 15 percent in the state.

Private schools had similar requirements, except all groups within the school had to have similar test results and high school graduation rates at to be at least 95 percent or higher.

Illinois had 22 Blue Ribbon Schools in 2014 and 21 in 2013.

Here's a list of the 16 that made the cut this year.

NEXT ARTICLE: Top 25 Illinois school districts with the highest projected deficit and surplus spending in 2015

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Illinois Lawmakers Who Crossed Rauner, Madigan Targeted in Primary Races

4 hours 17 min ago
As of 5 p.m. Monday, the slate of candidates for the March 15 primaries is complete and the stage is set for the first elections in the Bruce Rauner era.

Rauner's presence goes well beyond his status as the state's first Republican governor in 12 years. His personal wealth and ambition to bolster the depleted ranks of Republicans in the Illinois General Assembly likely will make many 2016 state legislative races far more competitive - and expensive - than voters have seen in previous elections.

Also in the mix are a pair of independent expenditure committees - more commonly known as Super PACs - dedicated to either "state legislative candidates who support Gov. Rauner's bold and needed reforms, and to oppose those who stand in the way" (Turnaround Illinois) or "defending Democratic incumbents from challenges they may face as a result of taking the tough votes needed to address the crisis" (IllinoisGO). They can't directly donate to or coordinate with legislative candidates' campaigns, but they have a combined $11.6 million to spend supporting/opposing candidates on their own.

With that in mind, here are some observations and items to watch now that we know the candidates for the March primaries. Some candidates who filed nominating petitions won't make it to the March 15 ballot if their petitions are challenged and found to fail Illinois State Board of Elections requirements.

Scroll to the bottom of this post for a more comprehensive list of Illinois General Assembly incumbents facing primary opponents and other interesting contests that emerged during the past week.

NEXT ARTICLE: List of elected officials calling for Anita Alvarez to step down grows as Laquan McDonald case resonates

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Cop Charged With Laquan McDonald's Murder Posts Bail

Mon, 2015-11-30 18:17

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By Mary Wisniewski and Justin Madden

CHICAGO, Nov 30 (Reuters) - A white Chicago police officer, charged with murdering a black teenager, posted bond on Monday afternoon as protests continued over a patrol car's dashboard camera video that showed the officer shooting the teen 16 times.

Protesters including NAACP President Cornell William Brooks were arrested on Monday, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Demonstrators have objected strongly to the 13-month delay in releasing the video and charging the officer for the 2014 shooting.

Police officer Jason Van Dyke appeared in shackles at Monday's hearing, where Cook County Criminal Court Associate Judge Donald Panarese, Jr. set bail at $1.5 million, of which 10 percent had to be posted.

The police union president said union members were helping Van Dyke's family raise the amount needed for Van Dyke to get out of jail.

Last week, Van Dyke was denied bail because the judge wanted to see the video first. Prosecutors asked on Monday that the previous ruling stand, but Van Dyke's lawyer, Daniel Herbert, said his client posed no flight risk.

Several days of protests in the third-largest U.S. city have followed the release last Tuesday of the video, which showed Van Dyke gunning down 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in the middle of the street on Oct. 20, 2014, as McDonald was walking away from police who had confronted him. Van Dyke, 37, was charged with first-degree murder.

High-profile killings of black men at the hands of mainly white law enforcement officials in U.S. cities over the past two years have prompted demonstrations across the country, and have stoked a national debate on race relations and police tactics.

Herbert said Van Dyke is prepared to defend himself. "He is very scared about the consequences that he's facing. He's concerned for his wife and his children. But he's handling it like a professional," Herbert said.

"When you see the video alone it does not seem like a justifiable shooting," Herbert said. But he said that consulting with Van Dyke and experts in the field, he decided the case was "absolutely defensible.

Dean Angelo, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police union, said he saw the video of the shooting, yet believed Van Dyke took "action that he believed at that time to be justified."

The case prompted an online threat that closed the University of Chicago on Monday. Jabari Dean, 21, a student at the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago, was arrested and charged with threatening to kill 16 white male students or staff in retaliation for the shooting of McDonald, federal prosecutors said.

Ten people were arrested for disrupting traffic on Monday, including Brooks and several seminary students as they knelt to pray in the middle of LaSalle Street outside City Hall. The protest began with singing and marching around with empty caskets.

One participant, NAACP College and Youth Director Stephen Green, said he knew they would be arrested and that they decided "to break the man's law to uphold moral law for transformation in the city of Chicago."

Green said up to 300 people took part in the protest, and more were planned. He said a court date is pending with a possible fine.

Chicago police confirmed that citations were issued and everyone was released. (Reporting by Justin Madden and Mary Wisniewski; Writing by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Grant McCool and Cynthia Osterman)

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Business Groups Plea for Budget Solution in Letter to Rauner, Legislative Leaders

Mon, 2015-11-30 10:53
A coalition of business groups from the greater Chicago area this week sent a letter to Gov. Bruce Rauner and the four leaders of the Illinois General Assembly pleading with them to get a state budget passed and bring some stability back to the Illinois economy:

The failure of Illinois' politicians to pass a budget is having a devastating impact on our economy and its small business community. This inaction is causing our state to fall deeper into debt, hurting small businesses and causing many people to endure unnecessary pain. Hard-working Illinoisans are losing their jobs. The government's failure to pass a budget is having a profound impact on local communities, college students, non- profit agencies, and ultimately, will result in higher taxes.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs drive the Illinois economy and create jobs. In that regard, our organizations are full of hard-working business owners and their employees, who together, support our communities. Simply put, we can no longer watch political leaders threaten the viability of our local economies and do unnecessary damage to the state.

As the Democrats and Republicans blame each other for the budget impasse, things only are getting worse.

Moody's Investors Service this week followed up its October downgrade of Illinois' credit rating with an FAQ document that explained the reasons for the most recent downgrade and the steps necessary for Illinois to repair its credit. Chief among those steps is passing a budget that balances state spending with revenue.

The report telegraphed plans for more downgrades if the governor and General Assembly don't get a budget enacted soon:

The governor and legislature did not agree on a budget for the current fiscal year, and a budget accord appears unlikely before the halfway mark, on January 1. If Illinois fails to enact a budget with gap-closing measures, it faces a deficit that could drive its accounts payable backlog even higher than the peak ($9.9 billion) seen in November 2010, very early in the nation's economic recovery.

All this happens just days from the Dec. 1 budget meeting between Rauner and the four leaders of the General Assembly. It'll be the first time Rauner, House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno all have met on the budget since May. Expectations are minimal for substantial progress on Tuesday, but there's reason to believe a budget will be passed in January.

That's our topic on "Only in Illinois."

NEXT ARTICLE: Unemployment rates fall in every Illinois metro area, but not all have reason to be thankful

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Breaking Down Illinois' October Jobless Rates by City, County and Metro Area

Mon, 2015-11-30 10:24
Unemployment rates fell in all but two metro areas in October, though half of them lost jobs over the year, according to preliminary data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Peoria was the only metro area that had a higher jobless rate compared to a year ago, increasing from 6.2 percent to 6.6 percent. In the Kankakee metro area, both the unemployment rate and number of jobs remained the same.

"We are thankful for every single job we have gained since the national recovery began in July 2009," IDES Director Jeff Mays said. "However, at Thanksgiving 2015, too few Illinois residents are feeling this turnaround."

According to the seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment report released on Nov. 19, Illinois gained 14,100 non-farm jobs in October, marking an end to four straight months of losses. The statewide jobless rate held steady at 5.4 percent.

"For 2015, job growth this month was the strongest since February and it is positive that we reversed the four-month decline preceding these numbers. Our job growth rate, however, continues to lag behind the nation," Mays said. "While the unemployment rate remained unchanged in October, our workforce participation rate edged up slightly as more people entered the labor force and more people found jobs during the month."

Here's a breakdown of October's metro and local unemployment report by city, county and metro area.

NEXT ARTICLE: Business groups losing patience with Rauner and legislative leaders

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This MLB Couple Hosted 17 Syrian Refugee Families For Thanksgiving

Mon, 2015-11-30 09:02

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This month's terrorist attacks in Paris have sharpened Americans' feelings toward the Syrian refugee crisis, which has been met with Republican-led concerns about refugees' entry into the United States. But one MLB pitcher and his girlfriend took a more empathetic approach to the situation over the holiday weekend. 

Oakland Athletics pitcher Sean Doolittle and Comcast SportsNet Bay Area host and writer Eireann Dolan hosted 17 Syrian refugee families over Thanksgiving in Chicago, where they were also joined by the city mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

Dolan shared a few shots from the feast on Instagram:

A photo posted by Eireann Michael Dolan (@eireanndolan) on Nov 25, 2015 at 7:48pm PST

She captioned her post, in part, "Chicago is so lucky to have 17 Syrian refugee families now officially calling it home. We thought we'd officially welcome them with one of our greatest American traditions, Thanksgiving." The family has also started a GoFundMe to help families transition into a new life within the Chicago area.

Doolittle and Dolan's outreach, which provided communal warmth and a shared meal, comes as politicians argue about whether the U.S. should allow Syrian refugees into the country. So far, 2,174 refugees have already been vetted and admitted to the United States, and not one has been arrested, according to November figures from the U.S. State Department. Responding to November's ISIS-led attacks in Paris, the State Department called for states to openly shelter refugees, but with many state governors issuing executive orders to bar refugees, the House of Representatives recently signed a bill blocking all prospective entrants until more stringent vetting is done. 

This unsightly reaction to Syrian refugees, who are fleeing crimes not committing them, helped motivate Doolittle and Dolan to act this past week. Dolan detailed similar thoughts on her personal blog, explaining their Thanksgiving plans and reminding us all that we're a nation of immigrants, too: 

When [my family] came to this country, it would have been very easy for them to be mistaken for those who would wish to commit terrorist activities when all they really wanted to do was to give their children a better life free from war and poverty.

Hopefully, as she writes, simple events and acts of kindness toward those in need will help dispel negative, knee-jerk reactions to incoming Syrians who just want nothing more than a normal-as-can-be life. 

"Hearts and minds are changed through small actions that we all have the ability to take every single day," she wrote.



Also on HuffPost

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'We Will Not Have Another Parking Meter Deal in This City'

Mon, 2015-11-30 08:17
Chicago just took a huge step towards closing the door on irresponsible sales of public assets and reckless outsourcing of public services. Last week, the city council passed an ordinance that mandates real public review of large privatization deals and increases transparency and contractor accountability.

The Privatization Transparency, Accountability and Performance Ordinance (PTAPO) is a significant move by Chicago's leaders to ensure meaningful accountability to the city's taxpayers and working families.

Unfortunately for Chicagoans, the rules weren't in place a decade ago, when then-Mayor Richard M. Daley leased the Chicago Skyway toll bridge to an Australian-Spanish private consortium for 99 years. The bridge has since become one of the most expensive toll-per-mile roadways in the U.S.

But Daley's lease of the city's parking meters to Wall Street in 2008 is the ultimate example of privatization gone wrong. Chicago sold the meters to Morgan Stanley at least $1 billion under their value, and contract language in the 75-year deal has forced the city to take on the role of risk manager to protect the multinational corporation's rate of profit. This makes it harder for Chicago to make innovative and environmentally sustainable changes to their transit, like dedicated bus and bike lanes.

Alderman Roderick T. Sawyer, who introduced and pushed hard for the PTAPO, said, "I can safely say that we will not have another parking meter deal in this city again because of this."

When our leaders put short-term budget relief above the long-term public interest by handing over control of public services and assets to the private sector, too often the public foots the bill for too little in return.

Chicago's new rules are a great start to making sure public decisions put the public interest first, provide quality services, and ensure efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Let's learn from Chicago's tough lessons and push for similar legislation cities and states across the country.

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Gun Threat Prompts Class Cancellation At University Of Chicago

Sun, 2015-11-29 22:27

CHICAGO (AP) — The University of Chicago canceled all classes and activities scheduled for Monday on its main campus following an online threat of gun violence passed on by the FBI.

The university said in a statement Sunday night that an online threat from an unknown person mentioned the campus quad, a popular gathering place, and a time of Monday morning at 10 a.m.

"It was pretty specific in terms of time and place," university spokesman Jeremy Manier said.

Faculty, students and non-essential staff were asked to stay away from the Hyde Park campus on Chicago's South Side Monday, the statement said. Students in college housing on campus should stay indoors.

The university said the decision was taken after taking into account "recent tragic events" at other campuses across the country and consulting with federal and local law enforcement authorities.

"We have decided in consultation with federal and local law enforcement officials, to exercise caution by canceling all classes and activities on the Hyde Park campus through midnight on Monday," it said.

University of Chicago shut down tomorrow given terror threat identified by @FBIChicago

— Kevin Hasenfang (@khasenfang) November 30, 2015

Last month, a gunman opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, killing nine people. Shootings have also happened recently on campuses in Arizona and Tennessee.

Manier said the cancellation of classes and activities would affect more than 30,000 people including both undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff.

The University of Chicago Medical Center will remain open to patients with added security, the university said. The Medical Center has nearly 7,500 staff.

University of Chicago is one of the leading teaching and research institutions in the nation. It was No. 4 in the 2015 U.S. News and World Report ranking of best universities behind only Princeton, Harvard and Yale.


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Free Community College Is Already Happening In Red And Blue States

Sun, 2015-11-29 18:29

CHICAGO (AP) -- An economic engine. A jumpstart for lower-income students. A partnership with businesses to groom a workforce. The idea of free community college has been touted as all these, by President Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidates, and some Republicans.

The idea is to curb student debt and boost employment by removing cost barriers. Educators are split on its merits, with some worrying the push could divert students away from four-year schools. And some proposals could cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, and may still leave students with debt.

But thousands of high school graduates have just started community college for free, with the first batch enrolled in independent first-year programs in Tennessee, Chicago and soon Oregon doing so under different price tags and philosophies - offering templates of how a federal program might look and potential glitches.

"My family wasn't going to be able to support me financially," said 19-year-old aspiring doctor Michelle Rodriguez, who's taking classes for free in Chicago after concluding that even with in-state tuition and a scholarship a state university would be tough. "I'm the oldest. I'm the first generation to go to college."

Tennessee is at the forefront, with over 15,000 students enrolled in what's characterized as a jobs program. Chicago has just under 1,000 recent graduates in its City Colleges plan, with a push toward getting students into four-year schools at a discount. Oregon is accepting applications for next fall, with as many as 10,000 applicants expected. Other states are watching and considering their own programs.

Cost is bound to be a contentious issue, especially with strapped state and municipal budgets.

The Chicago's Star Scholarship - a signature Mayor Rahm Emanuel initiative - is the most generous. Beyond tuition, it picks up books and transportation. "All I have to worry about is ordering my books on time, getting my homework on time and studying," Rodriguez said. The price tops $3 million for the inaugural class.

Tennessee, which this year relies on roughly $12 million from lottery funds, is a "last dollar program" - paying what federal aid doesn't cover, with an average of $1,165 a person. Related costs are up to students. For now, Oregon has set aside $10 million, and will cover up to the average tuition of $3,500 annually per student.

Obama has floated a $60 billion nationwide plan calling for two years of free community college available to most anyone with a family income under $200,000 who can keep a 2.5 grade point average.

Republicans criticized the cost, and at least one presidential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has said it's a bad concept. But Republican Jeb Bush likes the general idea and has supported Tennessee Promise. Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both have proposed affordable college plans, and Sanders has introduced legislation to make four-year public universities free.

Using public dollars for such programs is relatively new. Organizers studied plans utilizing private dollars as a model. Graduates from Kalamazoo, Michigan, have had free tuition available at some public colleges for a decade. Philanthropists have run a similar Knoxville, Tennessee, fund since 2008.

Still, Democratic state Sen. Mark Hass, who pushed the Oregon Promise, had a hard time convincing his own party of benefits. He went to the economics.

"To make a business case out of it, you look at the social costs that some of those people would likely incur on the way to poverty," he said. "A year of community college is a lot less than a lifetime on food stamps."

GOP-led Tennessee, which has all 13 of its community colleges participating, saw an 18 percent enrollment bump at technical colleges, according to Mike Krause, executive director of Tennessee Promise.

"This is a jobs conversation," he said.

With most students in Tennessee and Chicago just finishing their first semesters, it's early for data on dropouts, higher degrees or job placement. Education experts, though, say the Tennessee and Oregon models could still leave students with debt.

"Students from low-income families, even when getting their tuition paid for, still have substantial shares of their cost of attendance to cover," said Debbie Cochrane, research director at the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success. "They're not borrowing for tuition. They're borrowing for costs beyond tuition."

That organization says 69 percent of 2014 college graduates left school with outstanding student loans, which averaged $28,950.

Octavia Coaks, an 18-year-old in Chicago, said she feels lucky that her parents, a nursing assistant and railroad engineer, don't have to borrow more.

"I have a sister in college, they're (already) taking out loans. I don't want to put that kind of burden on them," said Coaks, who wants to study forensic science.

Setting the qualification parameters is one way to define the program. Unlike Obama's plan, the state and Chicago programs are limited to recent graduates.

Tennessee has no grade requirement. Oregon will require a 2.5 average. Chicago requires a 3.0 GPA.

City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Cheryl Hyman said that level is a signal students "have the persistence and dedication to their studies needed to succeed in college."

Some researchers worry the program could divert students, at least initially, from four-year schools.

"Typically, students who have a 3.0 are already going to go to college," said Sara Goldrick-Rab, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who studies such programs. "It doesn't usually change who goes to college, it might change where they go."

But many in the Chicago program say they're trying to complete general requirements and then transfer. A dozen Chicago-area colleges say they'll offer scholarships to Star Scholars. Chicago graduate Oscar Sanchez, 18, says he's inspired by his older classmates in community college.

"If they're putting that much effort, why can't I?" he said.


Follow Sophia Tareen at

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On Laquan McDonald, Wisps of Smoke and Slivers of Change

Sun, 2015-11-29 07:24
Perhaps the most disturbing image from the Laquan McDonald dashcam video released Tuesday is the wisps of smoke.

They waft off the 17-year-old's body while he is crumpled in a heap after being shot multiples times, allegedly by indicted Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke.

Whatever danger Van Dyke perceived when he fired the initial shots into McDonald, who was on drugs and had been behaving erratically, it's impossible to see what damage he could have done while on the ground.

The smoke that drifted in the October air came from a total of 16 bullets.

Hundreds of angry protesters chanted the number Tuesday night as they marched the streets of Chicago and issued calls for Police Chief Garry McCarthy's head. More protests are planned for the Thanksgiving weekend.

The topic of white police officers killing young black men has gripped the nation since last August, when Darren Wilson fatally shot Mike Brown in Ferguson.

The issue is not a new one.

In 2007 I investigated fatal police shootings in Chicago and the nation for The Chicago Reporter.

During the project we submitted multiple requests under Illinois' Freedom of Information Act asking for the reports the police compiled in their post-shooting procedure.

The process was shrouded in secrecy.

We fought for the information for more than a year, eventually receiving only a handful of heavily redacted reports.

Given the department's intransigence, we built a database of eight years of fatal shootings from area news sources like the Tribune and Sun-Times.

Along with a team of dedicated interns, we dug into hundreds, if not thousands, of court cases to determine if officers who had been the subject of wrongful death suits had been sued before.

We also looked at the department's internal discipline system.

The results were striking.

In Chicago and the nation's 10 largest cities, the victims were disproportionately black.

Close to half of Chicago officers sued in wrongful death suits had been sued before, and more than half of that group had been sued multiple times.

And of the more than six dozen fatal incidents that had taken place during the eight years, only one officer had faced internal discipline. That officer was later promoted by Phil Cline, the man who was superintendent at the time we did the project.

For the national part of the investigation we used data from the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Report. The compilation of data submitted by individual police agencies, it has widely been criticized as inaccurate.

At the same time, Craig Futterman of the University of Chicago Law School and Jamie Kalven of the Invisible Institute were fighting to have records of alleged misconduct by police officers released to the public.

During the course of our investigation several young black men were shot and killed by the police.

Aaron Harrison, an 18-year-old African-American, was one of them.

His death led to protests but did not cause real political harm to then-Mayor Richard Daley, who had rolled to his sixth consecutive electoral victory earlier that year.

Daley created the Independent Police Review Authority in an effort, he said, to boost transparency and heighten accountability.

As horrifying as McDonald's death is, faint signs of progress are discernible in the circumstances surrounding the fact, release of and fallout from the video.

The video in which Van Dyke is alleged to have shot Laquan McDonald 16 times would not have existed eight years ago because police did not have those cameras on their dashboards.

The video's entering the public domain was the result of two Freedom of Information Act requests that Cook County Judge Frank Valderamma ordered the police department to honor.

The first-degree murder charge filed by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez was the first such charge in 35 years, sources said.

News reports this morning pointed out that Van Dyke has been named in 20 misconduct complaints. Four are open and his actions have been deemed justified in the rest. The availability of this information is from a public records request in the Tribune and is part a result of Futterman and Kalven's victory in court in having those types of records introduced to the public.

British newspaper The Guardian has started an innovative project called The Counted in which the paper uses their reporting and verified crowdsourced information to get a more accurate count in real time of the number and demographics of people killed by police in the United States.

It's important not to overstate the good news.

As friend and former colleague Angela Caputo wrote in early 2014, the victims continue to be disproportionately African-American in Chicago. The IPRA's record of officer accountability remains spotty at best.

It would be naïve to think that the changes that have occurred have come voluntarily from the police or that the timing of Alvarez's indictment was not prompted by the release of the video which has been available for more than a year.

The criticism of Van Dyke's conduct by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and yesterday's firing by McCarthy of Dante Servin, the officer who killed Rekia Boyd after shooting over his shoulder, seem calculated and callous at best.

These slivers of change amidst substantial continuity illustrate the ongoing need to fight for a more just and open city whose streets far too often have been soaked with the blood of young black men, including one whose life literally went up in puffs of smoke.

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The Walmart Black Friday Protest Ain't What It Used To Be

Fri, 2015-11-27 13:59

WASHINGTON -- On the morning of Black Friday, a D.C. cop stood along the brick facade of a downtown Walmart and pulled leisurely on a cigarette. There was an anti-Walmart protest happening on the sidewalk in front of him, but he didn't have much work to do in the way of crowd control.

"Last year it was a lot bigger," the cop said of the demonstration. "And a lot more aggressive."

Indeed, last year, well over 100 protesters blocked traffic at the same street corner and had to be dispersed by police; workers and activists entered the store and sat in the aisles in silent protest. But this Friday, just a few dozen stood at Walmart's doors, chanting slogans about living wages and handing out flyers to customers leaving with bags of groceries. A store manager politely asked demonstrators to keep the doors clear.

The more subdued D.C. protest this year reflects changes at Walmart's longtime labor foe, the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Four years ago, the union launched OUR Walmart, a worker group agitating for higher pay and better working conditions at the world's largest retailer. The group went on to stage high-profile worker strikes that embarrassed Walmart and drew national headlines, creating a framework for the fast-food strikes that have fueled the minimum wage debate.

But the Walmart campaign started by UFCW has essentially split, with workers caught in the middle. The UFCW has scaled back its aggressive and expensive organizing at Walmart, instead turning its resources more toward advertising and public relations campaigns that call out problems with the retailer. In the runup to Black Friday, the union aired television ads and hosted food drives for Walmart employees in need. Meanwhile, a contingent of OUR Walmart has left, taking the name with it, as it seeks new funding. Operating independently, the group hosted protests in D.C., New York, Chicago and other cities on Friday. Workers affiliated with the group also took part in a 15-day fast leading up to the protests.

That means the D.C. protest happened without the formal backing of organized labor, and it showed. Fewer union members and activists showed up. And unlike in years past, there were no Walmart workers who had notified their employer they were on strike for the day. The sight of workers declaring a one-day walkout -- even if it was just one or a handful of them -- had lent the early Walmart protests much of their emotional power.

Only one Walmart employee spoke to the crowd -- Cindy Murray, a founding member of OUR Walmart, who was calling for $15 per hour and full-time hours for those who want them. Murray told The Huffington Post that she was grateful for the support from UFCW in the past, and said she was confident OUR Walmart would forge ahead independently and make gains for Walmart workers.

"We can't stop now. It's not time to stop," said Murray, a 16-year Walmart veteran and resident of Hyattsville, Maryland, who works at a different store in suburban Washington. "We're hoping they [UFCW] stand with us in the future, and we'll stand with them. Whatever they need, we'll be there."

Although UFCW played no role in Friday's protest, HuffPost encountered several former UFCW employees there, a sign of how dear the Walmart campaign is to those who worked on it. And there were other workers and organizers from like-minded campaigns, such as ROC United, a worker center seeking to raise the tipped minimum wage for restaurant servers.

"We're out in solidarity," said Gaby Madriz, who directs the D.C. campaign of ROC United. "It's the same fight, just different sectors. It's not possible to live off the current minimum wage in D.C."

Although Walmart dismissed the protests as union-orchestrated stunts, the OUR Walmart strikes of recent years clearly rattled the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant. As recently chronicled in BusinessWeek, Walmart launched a counter-PR campaign aimed at minimizing the reputational damage of the protests. It even hired Lockheed Martin to keep tabs on activists. But without the UFCW pouring money into strikes and protests going forward, Walmart would appear to have much less to worry about on Black Friday.

That doesn't mean Walmart's communications team wasn't on the ground in D.C. on Friday. HuffPost was handed a statement from company spokesman Brian Nick, who said the company was "proud of the wages and benefits package we offer," including a matching 401(K) and quarterly cash bonuses. The company said D.C. employees earn $12.92 on average.

A company spokeswoman offered HuffPost the opportunity to speak with one of the employees on duty in the store, though she insisted she be able to sit in on the interview. The employee, Tracy Lewis, said there was a lot to like about Walmart, particularly the flexible hours. The schedule allows her to take classes online and work full-time, often with overtime, she said. She declined to say how much she's paid, but she said she feels she's compensated fairly.

"They opened a lot of doors and created a lot of jobs in D.C.," said Lewis, a 51-year-old Northeast D.C. resident.

As Lewis took her break, the protest outside was winding down. Less than an hour after it began, most of the D.C. cops had driven away on their motorcycles or in their cruisers, leaving behind just a police van. Officers did not appear to have made any arrests.

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Laquan McDonald Protests Shut Down Chicago's 'Magnificent Mile'

Fri, 2015-11-27 13:09

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Hundreds of protesters in Chicago shut down Michigan Avenue on Friday as part of a march along the city's "Magnificent Mile."

The demonstrators took to the streets to bring attention to the 2014 police shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, whose death occurred under dramatically different circumstances than those described in official police accounts, video released last week shows. Jason Van Dyke, the officer involved in the shooting, has been charged with first-degree murder.

Police accounts of the shooting said the teenager was acting strangely and lunged at officers with a knife. While McDonald did have a small knife on him, the video shows he was walking away from officers when Van Dyke opened fire, emptying his entire ammunition clip into the teenager and then attempting to reload.

Video of the protest Friday captured demonstrators yelling "16 shots," a reference to the number of times Van Dyke shot McDonald, and "Stop the cover-up."

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Police accounts of the shooting reported the teenager was acting strangely and lunged at officers with a knife. While McDonald did have a small knife on him, the video shows he was walking away from officers when Van Dyke opened fire, emptying his entire ammunition clip into the teenager, then attempting to reload.

"This is something that has touched the conscience of our entire city," Reverend Marshall Hatch, one of the protesters, told ABC7. "We need to project just how the pain that we're feeling in neighborhoods now needs to be felt on Michigan Avenue."

Hatch also appealed for demonstrators to keep the march peaceful.

Protesters called for the resignation of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Chicago Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy.

THEY ALL MUST GO #resignRahm #LaquanMcDonald

— Thanks, Bastards (@MinkuAzad) November 27, 2015

See more photos and video of the march below:

Front line of Chicago #LaquanMcDonald #BlackoutBlackFriday march. intense crowd proceeding thru downtown traffic

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) November 27, 2015

maybe 200 protesters at kickoff of Mag Mile march #laquanmcdonald

— Dan Mihalopoulos (@dmihalopoulos) November 27, 2015

Third wave. Thousands here at Water Tower for #BlackFriday #LaquanMcDonald protest. "No shopping!"

— WBEZeducation (@WBEZeducation) November 27, 2015

For over an hour Chicago's main downtown shopping hub (the Magnificent Mile) has been shutdown for #LaquanMcDonald!

— agitator in chief (@soit_goes) November 27, 2015

"This is what democracy looks like" #LaquanMcDonald

— Grace Wong (@GraceWong630) November 27, 2015

#Chicago #LaquanMcDonald water tower place 11:55a

— shaz rasul (@shazrasul) November 27, 2015

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AG Lisa Madigan's Top Tips for a Safe Holiday Shopping Season

Fri, 2015-11-27 10:55
As Illinoisans gear up for the holiday season, Attorney General Lisa Madigan released her annual "Safe Shopping Guide" with a list of toys and products that have been recalled over the past year.

From toy cars to youth all-terrain vehicles, the guide has detailed descriptions and pictures of every product you'll want to avoid while holiday shopping.

And for the first time, this year's guide also offers Internet safety tips for parents who are considering buying smartphones, tablets and other connected devices for their kids.

"Today's kids are interested and skilled in the latest technology," Madigan said in a statement. "While there are many benefits to our kids using technology, there are pitfalls and dangers every parent should be aware of. Luckily, implementing a few rules and practices can promote safe and positive online experiences for our children."

Here are Madigan's Top 10 tips and also a copy of the "Safe Shopping Guide" with all the recalled products.

NEXT ARTICLE: We might live in Illinois, but we're still thankful for so much

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Claiming Power, Creating the Future

Thu, 2015-11-26 12:09
"Since the people are sovereign under our Constitution . . ."

Ralph Nader writes in a recent essay that we should demand acknowledgement of this fact from our presidential candidates and ask what they will do to restore this sovereignty to the American people, in their various manifestations as voters, taxpayers, workers and consumers.

"Regardless of their affiliation with either of the two dominant parties," he writes, "politicians are so used to people being spectators rather than participants in the run-up to Election Day that they have not thought much about participatory or initiatory democracy."

"Spectator," "participant" . . . these are trigger words for me. I deeply fear the reckless ascendance of that first word in our cultural and political structures, as world events are increasingly reduced to reality TV mélanges of celebrity and violence. Meanwhile, the second word shrivels. This is America the superpower, its management the province of a shadowy consensus of corporate militarists.

"It's hard to run for President as an opponent of the permanent U.S. security state," writes Jeffrey Sachs. "Being a card-carrying member of the U.S. security establishment is the mainstream media's definition of a 'serious' candidate."

Go Hillary!

". . . she and her advisors are good loyalists of the military-industrial-intelligence complex," Sachs notes. Her recent speech on ISIS to the Council on Foreign Relations "included an impressive number of tactical elements: who should do the bombing and who should be the foot soldiers. Yet all of this tactical precision is nothing more than business as usual. Would Clinton ever have the courage and vision to push back against the U.S. security establishment, as did JFK, and thereby restore global diplomacy and reverse the upward spiral of war and terror?"

I'm suddenly reminded of John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign and my confrontation with his spokesperson, whom I'd called after a Kerry fundraiser had hung up on me because I persisted in pressing him on where the candidate stood regarding the occupation of Iraq.

What's our mission in Iraq, I asked Kerry's spokesperson. "To create a stable democracy in Iraq," he said without hesitation. As I wrote at the time: "There's no quagmire, no covert agenda to control oil reserves and gain a strategic foothold, only Noble Purpose and Kerry's promise to be as profligate a spender of the lives of America's youth as Bush.

"And then our interview got worse. . . . How do you deal with terrorists? You crush 'em, he said, continually shutting down the conversation when I brought up the wimp concept of 'root causes.' There lay only danger and weakness, apparently. The least suggestion that injustice may be a cause of global insecurity 'is giving terrorists a cover.' . . .

"'The U.S. is there to help build a democracy and a peaceful future for Iraq,' he said. 'The folks who are fighting against the U.S. do not have the same goals.'"

Given that this little exchange took place more than 11 years ago and that "democracy and a peaceful future" still elude Iraq and much of the rest of the Middle East -- indeed, given that the situation across a huge swath of the world has hemorrhaged almost unimaginably since then, and terrorism has grown exponentially, all thanks to our efforts, while the military-industrial politicians of America still call for more of the same, more bombs, more drone strikes, more killing of insurgents -- some force has to emerge that can seriously challenge the war consensus. The world's most vulnerable people depend on it.

The concept of participatory democracy -- participatory public life -- needs to be reimagined from the bottom up. Of course, everyone hungers for participation. The crucial question is, what emotions drive our participation?

A few days ago, The Huffington Post ran an article called "A Running List of Shameful Islamophobic Acts since the Paris Attacks," tallying examples of the wrong kind of public participation. Perhaps the emotions behind the bulk of these acts -- fear morphing into a dehumanizing hatred -- was epitomized by one particular item, which occurred last week at a mosque in Pflugerville, Texas, a suburb of Austin:

"A member arrived at the center for morning prayer and found torn pages of the Quran outside, smeared with feces. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime."

This is public participation in the collective fear. This is the language of scapegoating. This is war.

And it's what we hear about endlessly, in the news and in our entertainment venues, as though social interaction is more about self-protection than connection; as though safety is more a matter of dominance and fortification than justice and healing; as though violence has no consequences; as though listening and understanding are not our first line of defense.

"Since the people are sovereign under our Constitution . . ."

Please write and tell me about how personal acts of compassion and connection have resolved conflicts and created understanding. I'll devote future columns to such stories. Tell me how sovereign people are changing the world -- not through hate but through the courage of love.

- - -
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press), is still available. Contact him at or visit his website at


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Laquan McDonald's Shooting Is Just The Latest Episode In Chicago Police's Brutal History

Thu, 2015-11-26 08:24

The sight of a cop emptying 16 bullets into the body of a black teenager was one Chicago police likely hoped the public would never see. But after a year-long battle to get dashcam footage released, viewers around the world on Tuesday night watched video of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald take his last steps before officer Jason Van Dyke buried him in a haze of bullets and gun smoke. 

Viewers struggled to understand why the 14-year veteran cop would repeatedly shoot a teenager who, though armed with a small knife, was walking away. Still more wondered why a cop would continue to shoot -- and try to reload -- well after the teen was motionless on the ground. 

Van Dyke's actions were an outlier on the scene. Of the eight police officers present, he was the only one who had fired his weapon. He did so because he "feared for his life," his lawyer said. 

Though Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy lamented the tragedy, they painted it as the actions of one bad apple. But for Chicago police, the department's reputation of being "rotten to the core" -- marked by conspiracy, corruption, torture and racism -- stretches back nearly a century.  

"The utter disregard for the fulfillment of their duties by the police department is appalling, and there is no question in the minds of the members of this jury that the police department is rotten to the core," Frank J. Loesch, founder of the Chicago Crime Commission and anti-corruption reformer, said of the Chicago police in 1928.

At that time in Chicago's history, there was a vanishing line between organized crime and corrupt politicians. The department was described in a 1929 Illinois Association for Criminal Justice study as a pawn for both. 

That same year, President Herbert Hoover's Wickersham Commission peered into the nation's law enforcement efforts and found that police torture and interrogation tactics dubbed the "third degree" were "thoroughly at home" in Chicago: adult and even juvenile suspects were worked over with everything from a rubber hose to the Chicago phone book. 

In the subsequent decades, the tactics would only get worse.

Chicago police treatment of not just suspects but everyday citizens made worldwide in headlines in 1968 when officers clashed with anti-Vietnam War protesters amid the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In one of the more egregious instances of brutality, police took off their badges and marched into crowds of chanting protesters to club them to the ground.

Connecticut Sen. Abraham Ribicoff called the police action "Gestapo tactics" in front of the entire convention as a furious Mayor Richard J. Daley looked on. 

Robert Maytag, the chairman of Colorado's delegation, at one point interrupted the convention proceedings to ask: "Is there any rule under which Mayor Daley can be compelled to suspend the police state terror perpetrated this minute on kids in front of the Conrad Hilton?" 

The following year, the Chicago Police Department reached another grim benchmark with the slaying of Fred Hampton.  

Hampton was singled out by the FBI as part of Director J. Edgar Hoover's 1960s-era Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro) that targeted "subversive" protest groups like the Black Panther Party and the Puerto Rican Independence Party. The bureau secretly worked both the CPD and the Cook County State Attorney to carry out Hampton's assassination. 
“Fred was a very charismatic Black Panther leader in Chicago," according to Flint Taylor, a longtime Chicago attorney whose People's Law Office for decades has represented victims of police misconduct and torture. "And this was the height of Hoover's repression." 
The CPD obtained a search warrant and went to Hampton's house at 4:30 a.m. Dec. 4, 1969. They knocked on the door before firing as many as 99 bullets into the home, killing Hampton, 21, and Michael Clark, a 22-year-old Black Panther leader from Peoria, Illinois. 
“The FBI even had a floor plan of Hampton’s home to know where he was sleeping," Taylor said. 
A total of 14 Chicago police officers participated in the plan, which Taylor called one of the most notorious examples of the department colluding with the state attorney's office and government authorities.  

Perhaps the darkest era of the Chicago Police Department is one that still ripples into the lives of wrongfully accused men (and Chicago taxpayers) to this day: that of the notorious Area 2 Police Cmdr. Jon Burge and his so-called Midnight Crew. 

Burge, who honed his torture techniques during Vietnam, oversaw the abuse of roughly 100 black men over three decades. Many of his victims were wrongfully convicted -- some to death row -- as a result of the interrogations that included beatings, suffocation and electric shocks to the genitals. 

The city has since paid more than half a billion dollars in Burge-related lawsuits, while Burge himself served 3 1/2 years after he was convicted of perjury in 2011. While many of his victims still fight for restitution, Burge now lives near Tampa, Florida, where he keeps a boat named "Vigilante" and is on a $4,000-a-month police pension. 

Burge's evasion of tougher punishment stands as a striking example of just how rare it is for police misconduct in Chicago to be punished. A recent report by the nonprofit journalism group Invisible Institute found that, in over 99 percent of citizen complaints against police, officers were not penalized. Even seemingly slam-dunk cases can end with officers walking. 

In 1980, three officers beat to death a 51-year-old former mental patient named Richard Ramey after he was arrested for smoking on a train. Officers Louis Klisz, Fred Earullo, and Fred Christiano were suspended from the department weeks later, but didn't go to trial for more than a year. 
Christiano's charges were quickly dropped once trial started for lack of witnesses. Klisz and Earullo ultimately received manslaughter convictions, despite damming photo evidence that Ramey's injuries were sustained in the interrogation room -- and not on the train where Earullo said he "feared for his life" as Ramey "stabbed" him with a pen.  

Anyone who has ever challenged the police's tactics risks encountering the "Code of Silence" that many advocates say pervades the department. Under the code, Chicago attorney Flint Taylor explained, officers close ranks around one another and provide alibis, corroborate one another's stories or simply stay quiet.
In 2012, a petite Chicago bartender named Karolina Obrycka tried to put that very code on trial. Five years earlier, she had refused to pour another drink for Anthony Abbate, an over-served off-duty cop who had come to her bar intoxicated before. 
Surveillance video captured the 250-pound cop throwing the 125-pound bartender against the wall, punching her in the face, kicking her and allegedly yelling, "nobody tells me what to do."
Abbate later claimed self-defense.
Obrycka alleged other officers covered up for Abbate, who was eventually convicted of a felony and fired. In her lawsuit, Obrycka alleged "that there is an attendant 'code of silence' that exists within the CPD, whereby officers conceal each other’s misconduct in contravention of their sworn duties."
In 2012, a judge sided with Obrycka -- despite protests from Emanuel.  

Unlike most of the 70 people fatally shot by Chicago police between 2010 and 2014, Rekia Boyd's name has been commemorated in chants, banners and songs, thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The 22-year-old Boyd was shot to death by Dante Servin, an off-duty detective, as she was enjoying an unseasonably warm spring evening with friends on the South Side in March of 2012.

Servin got into a verbal altercation with Boyd's group over noise as they were standing in the park. He claimed he "feared for his life" after a man in Boyd's group pointed a gun at him. It later turned out to be a cell phone. Servin fired over his arm at the group, fatally hitting Boyd in the back of the head.

Boyd's family was awarded $4.5 million in a wrongful death suit against the city, but Servin himself escaped conviction. He was cleared of all charges of involuntary manslaughter without having to mount a defense. The judge made her ruling on a technicality, saying prosecutors could not prove Servin acted recklessly because his actions were clearly intentional. In other words, the cop walked because he was under-charged. 

Cook County State Prosecutor Anita Alvarez on Tuesday charged Van Dyke with first-degree murder in the shooting of Laquan McDonald. Alvarez said she was confident her office could meet its burden, citing video footage of the shooting as well as witness accounts. Alvarez didn't specify if the witnesses were motorists on the scene, or any of the seven police who were on the scene with Van Dyke.  

Taylor expressed skepticism that any of the officers on scene would break their supposed "code of silence."

"[Cops] go on record, they write reports, they testify before a grand jury. And if they’re proven wrong, they’re committing perjury," Taylor said. "They can’t turn back." 

For police that do break rank, Taylor said retribution is all but certain. He cited Detective Frank Laverty, who handed prosecutors evidence he gathered in 1982 which proved cops had fingered the wrong man for a crime. 

"Laverty, an experienced homicide detective, was reassigned to watch new recruits give urine samples," said Chicago attorney Flint Taylor, whose People's Law Officewas involved in the case. "In the station, we learned later that when Laverty walked through the room, [Cmdr. Jon] Burge would pull out his gun, put it to Laverty's back and go 'Pop! Pop!' in front of all the other cops in the room." 

Van Dyke's indictment was the first time in more than 30 years that a Chicago police officer had been charged with murder. If convicted, he could serve 20 years to life in prison -- and would be the first Chicago cop in the modern era to be convicted of first-degree murder from an on-duty shooting. 

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Obama Sends Thanksgiving Message About Teen Shot By Chicago Cop

Wed, 2015-11-25 19:08

President Barack Obama on Wednesday said he was "deeply disturbed" by police video showing a white Chicago cop fatally shooting a black teenager, but praised the "overwhelming majority" of officers for their service.

Obama, in his first public comments about the video showing Laquan McDonald, 17, being shot 16 times, said in a Facebook post that he was grateful for the peaceful way Chicago residents have protested police actions since Tuesday's release of the footage. 

Chicago officials released the video in response to a judge's order. Earlier on Tuesday, officials announced a first-degree murder charge against Officer Jason Van Dyke, who shot McDonald. 

Police and union officials had claimed that Van Dyke fired in self-defense after McDonald lunged at officers with a knife. The video shows Van Dyke opened fire as McDonald backed away from officers. 

Hundreds of people marched around Chicago on Tuesday to protest the killing. The protests were largely peaceful, with police making five arrests for offenses that included resisting arrest and assaulting an officer. 

Also on HuffPost:

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How 2 Independent Journalists And A Lawyer Held Chicago Police Accountable For Teen's Death

Wed, 2015-11-25 18:25

The shocking police dashcam video that shows a Chicago teen gunned down by a city cop came to light because a couple of dogged independent journalists and a lawyer pried open government records.

Chicago's mainstream media barely flinched when police and union officials claimed Laquan McDonald, 17, was shot after lunging at officers with a knife. But journalists Jamie Kalven and Brandon Smith, and University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman, dutifully dug in. For months, they looked for hard evidence about what happened the night of Oct. 20, 2014. 

Their efforts culminated Tuesday, when officials announced an unprecedented first-degree murder charge against Officer Jason Van Dyke, the first time an on-duty cop has been charged with the offense.

A now-discredited initial police version of events said Van Dyke opened fire after McDonald disobeyed orders to drop the knife and attempted to attack officers with the blade. McDonald was shot in the chest, according to the early accounts. 

To say the teen was shot in the chest is an understatement. Kalven, who runs the nonprofit Invisible Institute, obtained the autopsy report through a freedom of information request. That report revealed that two gunshots hit the teen in the chest, in addition to 14 bullet wounds to other body parts. 

"The autopsy raises questions not only about how he died, but about how the Chicago Police Department has handled the case since," Kalven wrote.

Further doubts about the police account emerged when Kalven found a witness, who said the teen was backing away from officers, rather than lunging at them. The witness also said an officer continued firing at McDonald after he had collapsed onto the street from the first bullets. 

That witness, we now know, saw what the police car dashcam video shows. 

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City officials withheld the explosive video from the public until Tuesday, a deadline set last week by a judge who ordered the video's release 

Kalven and Futterman jointly demanded that city release the dashcam footage almost a year ago. A whistleblower from inside the police force had tipped the journalists to the disturbing nature of the shooting. 

“Sources report that a police officer repeatedly fired into the boy’s body as he lay on the ground,” Futterman said in a statement at the time. “If they are correct, this isn’t a case of self-defense. It’s an execution. The video should reveal the truth."

The police department, Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at various times declined to share the video, saying its release may hinder investigations into Van Dyke's actions.  

A development in April heightened the importance of the video. That's when the city offered $5 million to McDonald's family -- before relatives had even filed a lawsuit. The city lawyer cited the video as an "important part of the evidence" that led to the preemptive offer.

Smith took a larger role in the story in May, when he filed a freedom of information request for the video.

Chicago police asked for time extensions and blew deadlines, Smith said. They finally rejected Smith's request in August, as they did with similar requests filed by 15 others.

"But I'm not taking no for an answer," Smith wrote in the Chicago Reader

So Smith teamed up with Futterman, and they filed a lawsuit to get the contents of the dashcam video. In his article in the Chicago Reader, Smith credited Kalven's work on a previous case of police misconduct with making him believe he'd prevail in getting the video.

The tide turned against the police earlier this month. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked police last week to produce the video. She said it was "unsubstantiated" that making the contents public would impede the investigation or a fair trial. 

The decisive blow came on Nov. 19, when a Cook County judge issued the order for the video's release. 

The city complied Tuesday,  hours after it announced murder charges against Van Dyke. 

On Twitter, Smith basked in the victory. 

Guys. It's working. We're gathering around ideas that really matter. Like facts, sans spin, about police violence against people of color.

— Brandon Smith (@muckrakery) November 25, 2015

Still, Smith's battle with Chicago authorities wasn't over. He was blocked from attending the mayor's Tuesday press conference about the case because he lacked official media credentials.   

Also on HuffPost:

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Top 20 Colleges In Illinois, As Ranked By The Economist

Wed, 2015-11-25 16:32
The Economist has picked out its top colleges in the country for the first time ever- and the list of the best Illinois colleges may surprise you.

Using the U.S. Department of Education's college scorecard, the Economist created its rankings based on one basic idea:

(T)he economic value of a university is equal to the gap between how much money its students subsequently earn, and how much they might have made had they studied elsewhere.

The Economist analyzed the class of 2001's median income 10 years after graduation and looked at factors like sex, race, college size and how many students received Pell Grants for low-income families. The rankings also factored in what students were studying- an art school graduate probably will make less than an engineering graduate, even if the art school was a good choice economically.

But like any ranking, this list has its problems. The college scorecard only includes students who applied for federal financial aid, so some graduates might not have been counted. The data also only follows students for 10 years after they graduate, so that could leave out some potential high-earners, like doctors, who have been in graduate school.

Here are the top 20 Illinois colleges from the Economist's rankings.

NEXT ARTICLE: 5 things to know about the Laquan McDonald shooting video

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Reasons We Drink Heavily On Thanksgiving

Wed, 2015-11-25 16:06

  • If you're gonna eat all that food, you better get something in your stomach first.

  • So you can forget Dad's lengthy trip to the bathroom immediately before dessert.

  • Between you and your significant other, only one of you has to drive. It's a race to the bottom of the bottle.

  • Your grandma is surprisingly good at Quarters.

  • You decided to do a shot every time a relative wished an entire race of people would "stop complaining."

  • The bacteria in this undercooked turkey are going to have to earn their place in your body. This isn't Thanksgiving. This is Thunderdome.

  • Your sister's boyfriend has this opportunity for you to sell this Herbalife juice product that is definitely not a pyramid scheme. Anyway, it mixes well with vodka.

  • To avoid the weird advances from your second cousin.

  • Because the only thing that takes more courage than love is pretend love.

  • Your young, Republican cousin can't decide between Ben Carson and Donald Trump, just like you can't decide between scotch and bourbon. By the end of the night, he'll still be undecided. But you? You've chosen both.

  • Someone in your family is pregnant, so you're drinking for two now!

  • Your dad just took his high school championship football off the mantle and it's better if you're out of the way.

  • I mean, the liquor cabinet is right there.

  • Because you have a lot of crazy things to say and being drunk will be your only excuse in the coming days.

  • No reason for a holiday to get in the way of your normal Thursday routine.

  • You need something to wash out the smell of that Taco Bell you ate on the way.

  • Many polls still have Donald Trump leading the pack of Republican presidential nominees.

  • Because can we speed this whole thing along, please? Thanks.


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